Friday, 9 December 2011

LITERARY MASTURBATION


I’m coming to the end of the book’s final edits, changes suggested, though not insisted upon, by my editor. We’re not talking wholesale dismantling here, the culling of a main character, dramatic alterations in plot or tense. More the last brushstrokes, correcting slips in voice, a scene that’s been under- or over-played.

But there was one section I found hard to banish. A moment my character reflects on a number of philosophical issues germane to her situation. I felt it was, er-hum, very well written. Clever, even. It revealed an insight, not only into her intellect, but allowed me to demonstrate a passion and eloquence for a subject matter that resonates greatly for me. And this is where the alarms should have rung loud. Fortunately they did for my editor, who saw it for exactly what it was: literary masturbation of the highest order. Authorial voice, a pretentious one at that, had permeated what was until then a perfectly adequate piece of narration. Like an opportunistic egoist I’d hijacked the scene for my own garrulous needs.

And so, with much reticence, a little resentment and one eye shut, I did the necessary: highlight and delete. (Or if you think something meritorious for a future outing: highlight, cut and save elsewhere.)  It really hurt. Hours had been spent. But with the hindsight of a day or two, I see the sense it made.

Be prepared to kill those darlings. Especially the ones that excite you most.

3 comments:

Sue Guiney said...

Oh God. So true. So sad.....

Atiya Townes said...

That's really sad to hear and scary. As a very green writer myself I hope that none of the best aspects of my book will get deleted. I was working on it last night and almost wordgasmed after I finished a particularly awesome paragraph. I totally get the pride in one of those moments. I hope you saved those lines to be used somewhere else in your next book.

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Awfully awfully true. Best wishes for 2012