like a serial killer

The manuscript is done, it’s done, I finished it a day ahead of schedule, it’s done. And now, I’m editing it, because god only knows what kind of detritus I left behind in the wake of my moving things around.

I’m calling it a line edit, but I’m not so much editing this manuscript as I am savaging it. Every time I sit down to scrub all my prose clean, I end up cutting every other sentence, and then paragraphs at a time, and then pages. I think what I’m doing is looking at the manuscript with very clear eyes and a heart at a remove, just like a serial killer; I hope what I’m not doing is just cutting things for the hell of cutting them. There is joy, sheer joy, in tearing shit to pieces and throwing them in the air and watching the bits flutter down.

The thing is, though, that it’s not really ending up in pieces—it’s ending up more compact. Digging right down to the important parts and discarding the extraneous bits. Like a serial killer.

It’s made me think about My Writing Process—that’s right, I think about things like My Writing Process. Even better—I have a writing process to think about. I know. I have layers just like an onion. OR A SERIAL KILLER.

Anyway, what I do—in posts like this, in emails, in prose and in uh, non-fictional prose, which I suppose is just prose, I suppose, I write the same thing over and over again in different ways, until I finally figure out what it is I’m really trying to say. It’s metaphor, metaphor, metaphor, all the way down. And sometimes I’m tempted to keep all the metaphors, because hey—sometimes they’re pretty good metaphors! Like how some serial killers want to keep some of their victims’ hearts, right? Or possibly not?

But mostly I’m getting good at cutting out the less-good and sometimes frankly bad metaphors, or sentences, or ways to phrase the description of a particular shade of off-yellow or whatever, and leaving behind the good one—or, I hope, the least terrible one. It’s all a matter of narrowing things down to the important parts. So that the important parts more important—the effect of a single sentence can be so much more powerful than entire paragraphs, if you’re very, very lucky. I am hoping I am very lucky.

It feels wonderful to clear out the clutter in my writing—as good as it feels to clear out the clutter in my bag and my desk and my house and my head. It feels good to say things succinctly and cleanly and as sharply as possible. I think—I hope—I’m cutting right to the heart of things. Like a serial killer.

  4 comments for “like a serial killer

  1. May 9, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    You are better at killing your proverbial children than I am. I tend to be clingy with my words.

    Congrats on having the manuscript done!

  2. May 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    oh, man, i used to be all, “AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED THIS FIRST DRAFT IS THE BIBLE” about whatever i wrote. it took me like, mumblety years to get any good at revising. i think it’s the hardest thing to do outside of butt-in-chair, and i’m still struggling with it.

  3. May 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Yay! Congrats! I look forward to reading it.

  4. May 10, 2011 at 8:03 am

    YOU! You’re such a star. And only a little bit scary.

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