Monday, February 3, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: Driven to Distraction

Wisdom of an Inner Editor
It's a dangerous thing, leaving an abstract without a task. Particularly an Inner Editor. We're very organized beings. We have contractual obligations regarding checklists. We need tasks.

And yet here I sit, without task.

Which is why what happened last week was not my fault.

Renee is hard at work on the zero draft of Guardian, which is going along swimmingly. That's wonderful for her. I'm truly pleased. I got to work quite a bit on the plotting of this novel, and I'd like to think that my influence there means the Muse won't be turning in a confused slurry of underdeveloped characters and tangled subplots.

Alas, this leaves me, as I mentioned above, without a task at the moment. So when Renee picked up a flash fiction challenge on Saturday morning and ended up churning out 3000 words too many, I couldn't resist.

Tightening chunky prose is one of my favorite things to do. Renee is naturally quite verbose, so I have a lot of practice at it. Handing me 4000 words of text and asking me to cut it down by 75%.... This is how I know Renee loves me.

It was a grand challenge. At times I'm tempted to sneak into Renee's language center and remove all the prepositional phrases from her vocabulary. But I resist that urge, because then what would I do with my time? And there were whole scenes and secondary characters that needed to be cut. She also had a very elaborate backstory built up for her main character and, while it was lovely, we just don't have time for that kind of thing in flash fiction.

Unfortunately, all of this hard work spilled well over Renee's allotted timeframe. There was talk of setting the challenge aside, of holding onto the idea and using it for that short story the Idea Salesman is so keen on writing this summer.


I mean, while I agree that this idea could be further explored and developed into a short story later, I would prefer to spend some additional time working on it now, if that's acceptable. Renee is under considerable stress--Long-Suffering Husband was out of town last week, which made her parenting role a bit more complicated--and taking a day off for a project like this could be beneficial.</i>

It seems I was mistaken, with regard to both how much time I would need with the mermaids and the stress-relieving aspect of the project itself. Renee ended up quite frustrated by the end of the week and several thousand words behind on Guardian.

Let's not focus on the negatives though, and instead look at this as a learning experience.

One could argue, as I'm sure Idea Salesman will, that this week illustrates the importance of not letting an Inner Editor set the agenda.

I disagree. Not only is the premise absurd (who better to set an agenda, after all, than the abstract with the most experience and a certain fondness for to-do lists?), it also undermines my position. As Renee's senior abstract, I simply cannot allow that to happen.

That way lies notions of tying me up and locking me in closets.

I'd prefer to focus on the real lesson here, which is not to let ones Inner Editor get bored.

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