Revisions and editing sometimes feel like a loss, but I’ve learned that it’s just not true. The journey to writing a book is as important as having the book written. Which is kind of a “duh” thing to say, right? But maybe it’s not so duh . . . Maybe it’s something we should all remind ourselves of when we’re slashing and hacking at words we love but must sacrifice. It’s easy to forget that when it’s going on. Instead of being viewed as a part of the process, we sometimes use that to doubt our ability and our story.
A wood carver would never look at the shavings of wood on the floor and say, “If only that had come with all those wasted bits of wood OFF of it,” would they? That would take away the art they enjoy. Nature would make the carving for them. No muss, no fuss, all the beauty, none of the work.
Writing is the same. Sometimes there are things that simply MUST be cut for any number of reasons, and sometimes there are things to cut that you used to give strength to the structure of the story until it was built up and strong enough on its own. It’s okay that those things were there. It’s also okay when they go.
Recently, I worried that one of those supports I had put into the story for character development couldn’t be removed, even if it was a good idea to do so, without destroying something important.
I had offered a sort of “guide” to everyone who might be offended by any content in my story, and I was perfectly at peace with every aspect, but let me tell you something about my process . . . I don’t swear. You might hear me say “heck” or “crap,” but it’s unlikely that “damn” is ever going to cross my lips. Not out loud, and not on purpose. Any slip-ups (spoken to myself) make me feel guilty.
My characters, however, were stunted. I knew they needed something different. They were idiots who said “blasted!” all the time, and it looked stupid. So, I let them swear, and I was okay with that. It was about the story, it was about them, it was about reality. It improved the characters in a big way, and they relaxed for me and breathed a sigh of relief and went on being themselves. I built up a story around characters who had the freedom to express themselves the way they wanted to (within my conscience’s reason.)
So, why am I talking about this? I felt it was necessary because of how much I have talked about the fact that I don’t swear and yet my characters sometimes do. My blog entry (which no longer exists) called “Why You Might Not Want to Read Tree of Life” gave a specific listing of the rude words and “swear words” one might be troubled by and want to avoid reading. (I have many friends and family who have very conservative views on entertainment, and I respect that COMPLETELY. My own lines concerning entertainment are probably pretty conservative to many as well. I understand the reasons for it.) After that, it seemed appropriate to give this explanation.
I didn’t want the characters to swear. I did it, then I got to know the characters much better by giving them that freedom. But it’s like making papier-mâché with a balloon. You know . . . at some point, you may want to pop the balloon.
So, I popped it.
Recently, someone gave me unexpected insight concerning my story (Queen of Vague here), and I decided it was worth it to cut the swear words and maybe some of the rude words and see . . . just SEE if the scenes or the characters lost anything now that the story had matured and been completed.
They didn’t. The process asked for moderate freedom of language, but in the end . . . I cut it. The characters didn’t object, the scenes didn’t seem dry, the emphasis in a line did not lose its weight. Once upon a time, that wasn’t the case. Now upon a time? It is.
And, above all, the character I’m convinced is a manifestation of my muse, almost seemed to approve. ;o)
So, let it be known, slang you will find, a few rude words? Yes. Heavy thematic elements? Oh, yes. All of that is there. But the swearing balloon has popped, and the story’s integrity stands . . . and this pleases me. If I had known it would be this way, I might have tried it earlier! And, by the way, Tree of Life is now available on Kindle and in paperback form as well. 🙂
To revisions, edits, and unexpected changes I say: