Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hacking Through the First Rewrite

So you finished your opus. Now you are doing your first read through. Imagine a forest that is very dense, one of those Vietnam type of jungles with vines and low hanging branches and incredible bugs and animals and creeks and rivers and a no trail at all. And all you have is a machete to make your way and you wield it like a madman hacking through crappy sentences, hulking paragraphs, ridiculous sidebars, characters that go nowhere, a plot that meanders, whole branches that make no sense at all. You hack and you hack and you hack.

And somewhere going through this jungle you create a path. It is a very rough path but one you will be able to follow back. Sometimes it becomes just a line in the forest and you are not sure the foliage wont overtake it again. But you have to get through the jungle on this first pass and so you keep your eyes straight ahead and you keep swinging your machete, hacking your way to some coherence where at times there seems none. Because there is a plot here, it is just under this overgrown thicket of life.

And finally you begin to see daylight on the other side. Your arm is tired and you have become bored with this mind numbing work of slashing sentences and paragraphs. Will there be anything left after you are done you often wonder, but of course there will, the jungle is very thick. And so you stumble ahead. Slash Slash Slash. You push ahead to the end and are appalled that your since of direction is gone and  you will have to go the rest of the way on faith.

Finally you stumble into light on the other side. You are sweating, bruised, bleeding. Beat up. You look back at the jungle hooting and hollering at your back. You take a deep breath, then turn back and begin to hack your way back through again. Except this time there is a trail.

Books by William Hazelgrove