Last weekend my Daughter and I went to an Off Broadway show- “Christmas in Hell”. This musical was put on by the York Theater Company, and is currently in previews. Here’s the thing about previews: everyone involved in the show looks critically at each performance and tried to figure out what tweaks will make the show better.
Before the Saturday evening performance, the artistic director stood on stage and welcomed us to the production. He made the easy joke about Christmas in Hell was being performed in the basement of a Lutheran Church and btw, Happy Hanukah. And then he told us that the first act of the show had been changed since the last preview performance because they had done some reworking that morning to make the meaning and timeline more clear.
That morning they moved scenes around, changed dialogue here and there, etc.
For a musical that had already had a few performances.
The Author changed his play.
As you can see, I’m still baffled by this because I get freaked out by editing.
I’m presently in the heavy editing phase of my book. And I’m presently in the land of not wanting to cut things that aren’t working. I’m firmly entrenched in letting scenes, no matter how inconsequential or wrong, stay on the page. I am having trouble divorcing myself from the words that I have written.
When I (substitute yourself if you fall into this category) put words on a page, these words and sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters become my baby. I have given birth to these things, and Mama wants to protect her baby at all costs. How can my baby not be the prettiest thing in all the world? I wrote it…
We all need at least a semblance of an ego in order to survive. We have to have confidence in who we are and what we do. But…we can’t let that ego get the better of us. We have to be able to distinguish the right path from the not so right path. And we have to know when and how to edit our work.
I’ve been having trouble with rewrites on my third chapter, which in my work is a necessary but odd chapter as I do a quasi flashback. The scenes in this chapter are pivotal to the plotline of the rest of the book. And I had one scene…. My writing group friend said as gently as possible that a certain scene just didn’t work. And I know she is right. I know exactly what she is saying. But I still had trouble reworking it.
Yesterday, I just deleted the offending paragraphs and retooled it. It’s still not perfect, but it’s better. It’s tighter. It’s a better use of words to describe the situation.
Part of me feels much better that I reworked and retooled. And part of me thinks I let down my baby- that I didn’t think baby was good enough…
That’s the difference between writers who publish novels, and writers who have a manuscript in the draw- published authors know how to divorce themselves from the words on a page- to know that they are just words that can be replaced by other words.
I need to remember that editing doesn’t mean it’s not good. Editing means you’re making something better.