Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Random-ish Observation About Revision

So in my copious spare time, I've been tightening a story I hadn't visited in a long time. This is a fairly pleasureable activity for me. I much prefer revision to composing something new. Writing a first draft causes great, looming anxiety. No, it doesn't make sense. After all, the relatively short, angsty period of composition will be followed by a longer, more satisfying and pleasant period of revision. But there it is. Welcome to my neuroses.

Anyhow, during this latest act of revision, tasked with tightening a story, I was challenging everything in the story. Could this be shorter? Does this belong here? Even if the writing is good, funny, revealing, does it belong if it connects to nothing else in the story? Probably not, right?

But then it occurred to me that there are actually two possibilities when confronted by a passage in a short story that connects insufficiently to the rest (by plot, character, theme). The usual answer is to cut. This is what I have always done. (Except when I don't, because I'm weak and am in love with my own writing.) That does work, getting rid of superfluous stuff that may dilute the story.

But today, it occurred to me that sometimes--sometimes--the answer might be to adjust the rest of the story to accommodate that uncuttable line. That line that doesn't belong, but that you don't want to cut? The kind known in the biz as a "darling?" Why not make a place for it in the story? Consider expanding the story, rather than just reducing it.

I know. Sometimes I'm a slow learner.

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