Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Clean-sweeping the old WIP

I loved that old, now-axed show CLEAN SWEEP on TLC. It gave me hope that one day I could de-clutter my house. But of course every time I get in the middle of a de-cluttering project, it's some sort of immutable law that either (a) a neighbor will show up uninvited or (b) some medical crisis will break loose and you have to leave your pulled out clutter in situ for days on end ... in which case, clause A of the De-Clutter Law comes into full play.

The point is, of course, that everybody's junk looks the absolute worst when a person is elbow-deep in it. It looks hopeless. You've got all of it pulled out, bright and unforgiving daylight shining down on it, instead of having it tucked away in the shadows. You can't ignore it. You can't pretend it isn't there.

And what's worse? Once the junk's gone from the place it was, and you see the floor that held it, that floor's not bare. It's covered with dust bunnies and scuff marks and stuff you really don't want to ponder about. (OK, YMMV, as you may be a stickler for moving your junk and vacuuming under it, whereas I will vacuum around it. Don't care what they say, that edge cleaner on my vacuum doesn't really clean the edges.)

If I could avoid collecting the clutter to begin with, I wouldn't have this problem. But it's not always possible, because well-meaning family members WILL give you another tea pot or mug or thingamabob for the collection you didn't really want to begin with but that now is the instant answer to their gift-giving quandaries. The only thing I can do, then, is to ward off my increasing tolerance for piles of clutter in my life.

I was thinking about all this as I continued tearing apart my WIP. I am in the middle of a chapter that is pivotal to the whole book. It goes in the exact opposite direction that it needs to go in, and thus I am gutting it like the trout it is.

At the moment, the chapter is one hot mess. I keep cutting and cutting and cutting, until I think, "Gee, it'd be simpler if I just start from scratch." But then, just as I am about to highlight the entire last half of the chapter and hit DELETE, I see, sheesh, that there's some dialogue that would be PERFECT for the new chapter.

So I've got little scraps of dialogue in the midst of a lot of blank lines, and I am trying to build the chapter around those scraps.

It will happen. I still remember having to do a massive revision the first time, thinking, "I can't do this," as I cannibalized the old manuscript for the new. And then there came the tipping point, the realization, like a six year-old on a big two-wheeler, that, "Whee! I'm doing it! I'm doing it!"

I know it will come, that tipping point. I'm holding out for it -- that, and a lovely Godiva truffle, or if I can't have that, a Snickers miniature. But in the meantime? Pshew. There sure are a lot of dust-bunnies in this WIP.


Piedmont Writer said...

We moved in three years ago and I'm still decluttering. Although all my stuff is up on other stuff with legs so I do get to vaccuum underneath it. I am planning a major yard sale (after all the hurricanes move through) to get rid of my chachki's, christmas ornaments I don't use, and anything else I can sell for 50 cents.

I remember when I tore apart my first ms. I hated doing it, and like you I saved everything and found to my delight, most of the narrative I could use in another story, and even some of the dialogue came in handy in a different place.

Gutting a fish is a good metaphor. You can save the stinky parts for the cat and still get to keep the good.

Linda G. said...

How timely! I too am gutting a trout right now. I'm saving the innards for future use, though, because I can't stand to throw anything away.

(Am now seriously considering changing my "scene leftovers" file to "chum bucket.")

Jeannie Moon said...

I was just looking through my documents folder and there are tons of files labeled "dumped scene___" Someday I'll have the nerve to clean house with my documents, but right now those files are right up there with the plastic pumpkin serving plate thats still in the closet. I might use it. Someday.

Kelly Breakey said...

I was wondering what I should have for dinner tonight and now I know. Fish.

Decluttering is something I no longer live with. Oh, I would love to tell you that I am insanely organized, which I kind of am, but when it comes to those corners of the your house that you really don't talk about, you know the closet in the office or spare bedroom. Well my philosophy is pretty basic, every year after we have winterized the boat I clean them out. If we haven't touched what is in there for the past year, it goes. In fact it is getting close to that time of the year again, and I haven't opened the closet in my office once this year. In fact I have no idea what I have in there. No worries, more stuff for me to get rid of, I am sure.

Jessica Lemmon said...

Uuuuugh, just reading about gutting makes me grasp my own gut. :p

I do not like it. I'm rewriting right now, which is actually worse, becasue then I have to go BACK and gut later.

But I have pulled from earlier versions - bits of dialog, a scene or two, a line here and there. So I suppose I'm gutting and stuffing at the same time.

Us writers sure do have a lot of GUTS.

Stephanie McGee said...

Ugh. Good luck with the revisions! I'm sure major gutting of my manuscript is in my future. I'm thinking up coping strategies as I write this.

Summer said...

Cleaning a fish is a perfect metaphor. I think I'm still descaling right now in my own revisions. It's my first experience doing this kind of revision work, and it's about as hellish and stinky as cleaning a bucketful of brim (or trout).

I'm a serial Goodwill donater; also, hubby and I are still renting, which means moving every couple years. The less clutter the better, when you have to put it all in a U-Haul!

Good luck with the gutting!

Penelope said...

What a great metaphor! I really like this post. The middle of de-cluttering is always the worst part.

Patty Blount said...

Ew. Fish. (Sticks out tongue.)

I don't like clutter either and have lots of it. I am doing the same thing with my WIP. I don't delete anything now. Instead, I just move scenes to an Outtakes file and rebuild, often pasting back what I've just removed, but in small sections.

Great post!

out of the wordwork said...

So, like, are you living in the attic of my house and watching me suffer through the most massive decluttering exercise I've ever gone through - a move from a house to a rental and then back again after a reno? Seriously, after this, doing a revision on a novel will be a cake walk. Bring on those word dust bunnies - I'll be ready!

Tawna Fenske said...

For what it's worth, that book you're gutting is one of my very favorites you've written. Keep at it! I can't wait to read the new version.


Meghan Ward said...

Oh man. I'm about to start Phase II of the "final" revision on my WIP and I have a lot of dust bunnies to clean out, too! And that's not including all the ones in my basement. Good luck to both of us.