Erasing Words

Once upon a time I went to a writer’s conference and pitched a handful of agents. The conference was in San Diego, and the Jacaranda trees were going nuts. They went all out in their support, y’all. It was after lunch (A lite lunch. I lose my appetite when I’m nervous). And I was waiting for another round of pitches to start, when a fellow writer walked out of the conference room with a HUGE smile on her face. She told me that it had gone well. REALLY well. I-want-your-full-manuscript-in-my-inbox-tonight well. We shared a squeal. I asked my new friend about her genre, audience (women’s fiction) and word count.

“Oh,” she said. And her face fell. Her word count was 55K, and the agent told her she needed to get it up to 60K.

“5,000 words? That’s it?!”

“I don’t know if I can do it.”

“Honey, that’s like two extra scenes at most.”

She shook her head and doubted.

When it comes to writing, adding words has never been my problem. Adding words in conversation is a different story. One I’d rather not talk about… ( Brain Fog + Mommy Brain = Um, er… Can’t think of the word… Oh, yeah. Inarticulate.)

But drafts littered with extra words is not a good thing. And this July, I’ve realized that erasing words is as important as creating them. I’ve spent a lot of late nights this month editing my MS in preparation for PitchWars. My manuscript flirted with 91K words at the beginning of the month, and is now down to 86K.

I’ve been erasing a lot of words, y’all. My old draft is covered in red ink.

And it has been hard. And it has been stressful. And my eyes are never going to be the same (I need new glasses). And I desperately need to hit the gym. Right after I make Merry PitchmasEve cookies tomorrow. PitchWars is writer Christmas, y’all. Happy Pitcholidays!

So yeah, adding 5K: no big. Erasing 5K: it took an entire month. But it’s practice I’m glad I have. Practice is my personal synonym for faith. And faith, of course, is how I approach courage. Beloved writer aunt of mine tells me that it takes lots of courage to write a book. And I understand this as a lot of faith manifested in hours (and hours!) of practicing. And some of those hours will be spent building, but some will also be spent erasing.

Artists get to create, right? The get to build castles out of words, or paint, or sand, or photographs, or whatever. Artists make things. But they also get to erase. This painting hangs in my bedroom, and underneath those marvelous blue and blush pink oils is a failed cityscape. My Dad painted over it. It wasn’t working for him. He tried again. And I LOVE it!

I love process shots of the illustrators that I follow on Instagram because I see more than just the perfect flawless image. I see the sketch-lines and the adjustments. I see what was erased from the final image.

Part of creating is erasing. Part of life (especially my parenting life) is saying, I messed up and I’m really sorry. Can I try again? It’s part of the journey. And as much as I want that HEA (my real book, Amelia the wonder-mommy, pants that don’t strangle me with shame), I don’t want to miss the chance to erase, try again, and practice. It’s like what Ursala says, “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

The journey is my joy.

What are you journeying towards, what are you enjoying along the way? Any PitchWars friends out there who are ready to take a long nap after submissions open tomorrow? Comment below. Let’s stay in touch.

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