Thursday, October 03, 2013

It's Too Big!

“That’s the magic of revisions – every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.” ― Kelly Barnhill

Last year during National Novel Writing Month I wrote 52,000 words about running my first marathon. During the subsequent ten months, I added another 141,000 words to the book. So now I've got a behemoth of 193,000 words and I've been ruminating about what to do with it.

Last Tuesday on my usual trip to the library, I spotted Roy Peter Clark's book, Help! For Writers on an end cap. I scanned the index and noticed a chapter titled, "My work is way too long." Bingo! Since the average memoir ranges from 60,000 to 70,000 words, my task will be to lop off about two-thirds of the thing. But which two-thirds?

Clark makes suggestions I can follow. He recommends not compressing sentences or paragraphs until after considering other cuts. This means I'll need to look at the big picture of the story before doing the knit-picking edits I prefer.

He suggests cutting any elements that don't advance the focus of the story. Following this suggestion will require me to know the focus of the story. That led me to another chapter, "I don't know what my story is really about." Sounds like I need to read that as well.

Clark also says to begin the story as close to the end of the narrative as possible. Maybe the day I jogged for one minute for the very first time wasn't the place to begin the book. Um. Alright. I've got some work to do! But his suggestions give me a place to start and that's always a good thing.

Where do you find help with revision? Do you have a favorite book or method that works for you? I'd love to hear about it.

2 comments:

Sue Markovitch said...

Great post! I recently compiled four years of my weekly newsletter into a manuscript to be self published. My first draft was 644 pages, so I feel your pain. I narrowed it down to 298 pages after getting really clear on my message, but it was hard to let some material go.

Nita said...

Congrats, Sue! I love to hear success stories!