Saturday, January 11, 2014

Between the Bindings with Rebecca Cantrell

Rebecca is a very nice, interesting and talented lady.  She is the author of the Hannah Vogel mystery series (Berlin in the '30s) and co-writes the Order of Santuines series with James Rollins.  Her writing group refers to her as the "Slasher" and here's why ...

In my writing group, I'm known as the Slasher because I cut ruthlessly while editing, particularly my own work.  I wasn't always that way.  Throwing words away is a hard lesson for most writers to learn and it was for me.  It's easy to get caught up in your perfect words.

But one day a friend told me that when she revised her novel it felt like "losing a child."  She doesn't have children, but I do, and revising is nothing like that.  Hearing it put in such stark terms shocked me out of my own over-attachment to any word in my story.

Don't get me wrong.  I love some of my sentences just as much as the next writer.  I've let go of giant subplots that I still mourn.  In A Trace of Smoke, Hannah Vogel's brother, Ernst, used to talk from beyond the grave and I had to cut all his scenes and I know I can never work them in anywhere else.  I miss the Monster of Masada scene I cut out of The Blood Gospel and still hope to find the right home for it somewhere, someday.  Ghosts of stories past haunt my hard drive.

But that is where they will have to stay.  Because writing is about using words to transport people into your world.  If the words are wrong and the world isn't clear, the words have to change.  Period.  It's just part of the process, like hitting the Shift key at the beginning of a sentence.  And it doesn't have to hurt.

Right now I'm giving us all permission to embrace our inner Slasher, to write and then cut joyfully.  You're not throwing away those words any more than Michelangelo threw away all those extra marble chips.  You are letting the best, truest story appear.

Happy slashing!!

Great advice, Rebecca.  And it makes so much sense.  I have heard people say before that it really hurts for them to cut things from their stories, but you've really put it into perspective.  Thank you for that.

And until next time, y'all ... :) 


Andrew Leon said...

I think culturally we are overzealous in what we cut from our books but, still, I like that image of sculpting.

Hugh the Crumudgeon said...

I've read "Blood Gospel" and... I wonder what it was like before the slashing. Blood gospel was pretty darned good! (and it didn't lack for wonderful prose.)