Monday, April 4, 2011
Why a Book is Like a Suitcase
Well, they're both rectangular prisms, I suppose, but it goes deeper than that. I've been packing today for my trip to Los Angeles, and in the course of my folding and rolling and stuffing I realized my books — or at least my first drafts — are like suitcases, really.
Some of the things I'll put in, I won't need. And some of the things that I'll need, I'll forget to put in.
In all my years of travelling (and writing) I have never yet perfected this. I've tried, believe me. I've refined my packing technique so I can usually fit what I need in one carry-on, but even then there will always be one shirt or one pair of pants that I could have left home, just as in every first draft I've written there's always been one scene (at least) simply taking up space.
Which is nothing, of course, when compared to the bother of getting to the end of the first draft and realizing I need to add a whole new scene or subplot (the equivalent of having left my hairdryer at home, instead of packing it).
In my latest book, The Rose Garden, I wrote a lovely scene in which my heroine and one of the past characters sat talking on a hillside on a quiet Sunday morning, and another scene in which she met two ramblers on the coast path. Good scenes, both of them, but totally unnecessary to the plot, and so although I packed them into that first suitcase they were never used.
On the other hand, I found I had forgotten to put something in the middle of the story that was necessary, so I had to add it in.
It seems no matter how I try to learn from past experience, this always happens. Even though I've laid my clothes out carefully and taken half away, the way I've learned to do, I know there will be something that will languish in the suitcase all this week and not get worn. And in my current work-in-progress I know I'm creating scenes that won't be in the final draft.
Maybe one day I'll be able to spot them straight off, and save time. Anybody out there have some tips to offer?
(Come back Thursday, when the lovely Julie will be posting.)