Sanchin – An Epiphany

While I was editing Sanchin today I dared to enter the dark side – my scrap file.

My scrap file is the document I keep open alongside the one I’m working in. Every time I think I need to cut something I simply paste it into scrap. There are two reasons stuff ends up in there, either it’s plain old bad writing or, good, bad or mediocre,  it doesn’t move the story forward.

Once I get to the final editing stage the scrap file is usually considered out of bounds. Today I opened it, admittedly by mistake as my desktop had mysteriously rearranged itself during the night. I’m glad I did.

I remember banging on when I first started this blog about how easy it was to write Sanchin, how the story just flowed and that it was a joy to sit at the computer everyday. What!!!! How short is my memory?

For the most part the story did flow well and there are several chapters which have little or nothing in the way of scrap.  (I throw all of my scrap under the relevant chapter heading as the good stuff might fit the story later on and I want to be able to find it easily.)

Now, I’ve had several people review my writing so far. Generally speaking the criticism has been constructive and, in some cases, I’ve made changes and the story is stronger for it. If I’ve disagreed with the criticism I’ve ignored it and it hasn’t had much of an impact.

But here’s where it gets interesting (and where it eventually gets back to being relevant to the scrap file.)  There is one scene that was commented on and I flipped. I mean totally freaked right out kind of flipped.

The really weird thing is that, out of about 25 reviewers,  only two people mentioned it. So you would think it would be a simple case of, okay, they’re a bit sensitive about it, no one else mentioned it, no worries. Leave it alone.

But oh, no. Both times I had a hissy fit, a ready to rip up the entire novel and never write again kind of hissy fit. In fact, after the first comment, I even did a complete rewrite, removing the scene in question and everything that related to it.

This changed the entire character of the novel and it didn’t work for me at all. So I went back to the original story and came to the conclusion that that’s why I’m so sensitive about it. But it seems that may not be the case.

That chapter in the scrap file is loaded with stuff.  It’s fairly early on in the book and it was an absolute nightmare to write. This chapter contains the offending scene and, you guessed it, most of the scrap is related to that.

Now, I’m not sure if it was reading through the scrap file or the whack on the head I got this evening that jogged my memory, but I remember now that it took days to write that scene. I bought several notebooks because of it. Every time I went somewhere without a notebook and pen it would rear its ugly head and I’d have to get my hands on a pen and some paper. (I should really learn something from that.)

I walked around town in a daze with this cruel incident playing through my mind, trying to write it in a way that didn’t seem too horribly sadistic.

I didn’t succeed. It is horribly sadistic. But it’s also an accurate account of what would have happened. I tried and tried to rewrite that scene, to shorten it, to make it less brutal, but it was so character driven that I just couldn’t do it. It didn’t fit any other way.

So I guess that’s why I’m so sensitive about it. I didn’t want to write it. I don’t want it to be there. But it is, it’s there because it happened and it couldn’t happen any other way.

Now, about that whack on the head. I may well read this tomorrow and regret ever posting it. I’d like to be able to say it was an alcohol induced ramble but I’m an alcohol free zone at the moment so I’ll blame it on the concussion. I might tell you about that tomorrow.