Friday, January 4, 2008

My pile of scrap lumber--a kind of end to Chapter 3

With very little confidence and satisfaction, I wrote an end to Chapter 3 and have it in my head that I'm done working on it for awhile. I haven't yet had my wife look at it like I did previous chapters, so we'll see. Maybe that will inspire me to work on it some more next week.

I started work on the rewrite on Dec. 7, so I'm way off of my goal of doing a chapter a week.

It's 50 pages and 16,113 words. It started out as 17 pages and 5,970 words, so you can't say I haven't been writing. At this rate, after the first rewrite I'll have a manuscript that's about 400,000 words, which is about 300,000 words too long. Chapter 3 itself ought to be closer to its original length of 17 pages, so what I really have at this point isn't a finished chapter so much as a pile of scrap lumber to sort through. It lays out a ton of different themes and minor story lines and doesn't resolve or escalate any of them very powerfully.

(Those figures aren't counting the 10 pages (3,400 words) of material that I save in a kind of dust bin. My typical process as I'm rewriting is if I ever cut out as much as a paragraph or longer, I paste it at the end of the Word doc in a section I call "leftovers" in case I change my mind and want to bring that stuff back. So my Chapter 3 document is actually 60 pages long with the "end chapter" mark coming on page 50.)

I just looked back at my blog for Dec. 5 when I finished Chapter 2. I was feeling pretty doubtful then, and I feel even less satisfied with how Chapter 3 has gone. The sense of not doing good work is starting to wear on me. So I have to remind myself . . .

. . . collecting the pile of scrap lumber is a necessary part of it. The Chapter 3 that I need will emerge from this eventually. I found my working title. I found a unifying metaphor to help keep me focused in this chapter and in the rest. I can describe my overall plot and how character and theme and setting intertwine with that better than I could a month ago.

My plan is to get my wife's feedback over the weekend, maybe make some notes on what to address the next time I come back around to this chapter and move on to Chapter 4 on Monday. We'll see.

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