By Martha Reed
There were two hurdles in my latest draft that I was dreading from the onset – an emotional scene between two of my characters (tackling emotion isn’t my strong suit) and a pivotal vehicular accident scene involving precise calculations and quite a bit of math. Math has always been a problem for me – I’m much better using words – and since I’m lazy and most people are kind I can usually con somebody into doing the math for me and just giving me the end result.
But this time it was different and I wanted to do the math for myself. So, I gathered all the pieces of the algebraic formula I imagined I would need (mass, distance, trajectory, speed) and sat down to gut it out. Imagine my surprise when the math evaporated into two tiny paragraphs and the rest of the story continued merrily along as exposition.
It pains me now that all that perfectly good math ended up on the cutting room floor.
Over the weekend I also went back through my notes to make sure my story arc was lining up properly – I’m only forty pages from the finish and I wanted to tie up all the loose ends – and as I was reading through my very early manuscript pages I realized just how far off the mark I had been when I started out and how much the story has mutated to get to the finish line. I have perfectly good whole chapters that I know I slaved over that are now sitting in my deleted bin or in my discard pile. I still find myself hanging on to these pages, though, even though they are mutant creatures because I put so much work into them I can’t simply throw them away. Right now my plan is to keep these pages and chapters in a separate manuscript box in the hope that they may someday shed light on my creative process for some distant future archivist.
Of course, the oddest thing about writing a truly good story is that if you do the job well and really tell the tale so that it comes to life, the last thing that gets shed is the author. Think I’m kidding? Okay, name the author of Treasure Island or The Adventures of Baron Munchasen. See what I mean?