Revisions and Excisions (aka: Riding in Cars)

October 4th, 2011

At last, having completed yet another revision of my novel, now entitled The Surrogate’s Daughter, whereby I cut seventy-two (72) pages (thank you Hillary for not holding back on sound advice!) I can reflect on the process. I initiated this current round of culling after a distressing revelation that the narrative momentum slowed to a stop at regular intervals when the characters were in a car, either heading to their destination, where the drama would consequently unfold or returning from their destination, after the drama had already occurred. How could I have failed to perceive this ever-so-obvious tendency until after I had already submitted what I considered the final-final draft? I wish there was a maxim to take away from this experience. Something like: only after you truly believe you have reached completion can you recognize the essential flaws in the text. Certainly, in writing and revising future work, I will be hyper-alert for “riding in cars” as I call this phenomenon but I suspect no ready platitude exists and, ultimately, I will be caught out by a different but equally obvious liability. Disheartening, but I imagine that whatever I learn in the creation of a novel stays in the creation of that particular novel.

What’s most disconcerting is that after reading and re-reading, editing and revising, draft after draft, year after year, I had been blind. I know it’s a useless and destructive exercise to indulge in that sweat-inducing mortification of “how could I not have seen this until now!” And there’s no reason to brandish the rhetorical self-flagellation, and yet, I’m in the thick of it. Perhaps the takeaway is actually a cliché that can, every once in a while, sink into your being with the weight of a profound truth and resonate through your creative life. Let it go. You didn’t see it then but you see it now, be happy. Maybe every writer has his or her own “ride in cars,” the thing you don’t notice until someone else reads the novel with a fresh, discerning eye. Move on. Regret is a hindrance. Write more. Write faster. Write better. Don’t resist that place of completion where you can see your failings most clearly. Learn. And let go.