Island Life, Word Birds & Process
Earlier, writing my daily Letter to America, I mentioned the mist (it’s an Island Life this morning, dear reader & no mistake) & that only a small, solitary bird graced the highest branch of the birch tree. It never lasts, this daring do. Sooner or later, Crow arrives, evicts the interloper and claims her place. Today she came with friends, three dark shapes against a rain-drenched sky, elegant itinerants.
They’re gone now. Crow has business elsewhere. If the mood suits her, mine tarries long enough to leave a few words, a line or two I may find a use for. Lately, I’ve sensed her shaking her black hoody head – Kraa – you are procrastinating, writer.
She isn’t wrong. It is however procrastination thinly disguised as editing. When I set aside my current new story (was Book 2, now Book 3) to write The Snow Sisters (the usurper) it was a vague second draft. I knew it was chaotic, that parts of it were going to need serious attention. In the back of my mind, a confused muse wrestled with chunks of ubiquitous backstory (my nemesis) pronouncing it superfluous to anyone’s requirements.
Knowing I was about to embark on another draft, my first reader (the recipient of my Letter to America), put up her hand. Her eye is astute & she asks the right questions. Checking ahead, I spotted where the chaos began & faster than a rat up a drainpipe, scuttled back to Chapter One. I’ve spent the last week meticulously & very, very slowly, editing the first ten chapters: back & forth like an over-keen copy editor on Kalms. These chapters are so edited they are faint with exhaustion, begging to be left in peace.
And still, Chapter Eleven waits. Or as I like to call it, the place where it all goes pear-shaped, backstory crash-lands onto the page & I have no idea how to deal with it. I’ll work it out – it’s only words, yes? Kill a few (several hundred) off; tidy up the telling, dump the debris…?
If I ask nicely, maybe the words birds – my beautiful vagabonds – will take some of them back…
* John Burroughs