It’s this common thing you’re supposed to know about as a writer – like “show don’t tell” but less mainstream – that some writers are “filler-inners” and some are “taker-outers.” Some important writer (obviously a filler-inner) discovered this and we repeat it. I like it because it makes things organized. It lets everyone be a writer: oh, I just took something out? I guess I’m a taker-outer. It’s nice to find an identity in this game.
Taking out is writing too much then realizing that things could be simpler. I do this to a certain extent: I try to say the least possible because I value poetry over clarity. However, I don’t write enough to begin with, so taking out isn’t my main hobby.
(image from 123rf.com)
I wrote my first draft in six weeks. It was a novella. It told feeble stories in some semblance of an order and my main character was sort of mean because I just rushed through her. The whole thing felt like a teenager wrote it and like it was at that moment not fit to show anyone. It wasn’t – I was right. But I marveled at its beginning, its middle and its end. It was a self-sufficient thing. It was a novel.
From it I had to add. I spent drafts adding, then further drafts taking out (because I value poetry over clarity). I spent one whole draft adding details, circling words in green and then talking about those words. I filled in pockets and boxes and empty pools with words. I filled in an ocean.
Still, at draft five (which has seamlessly, unbeknownst to me, flowed into what I will have to consider draft six), I fill things in all the time. I write broad moment without meaning to and only later realize their emptiness of anything at all. They lack visuals; they lack whole characters. I make notes to myself on what I need to fill in with CAPS LOCKS. I later write a freewrite to fill in what I decided was missing. Freewriting (the act of writing quickly without thinking) allows me to find what it is I was trying to say, the thing I had left out because I was too focused on getting to the end. This works best when I haven’t reread the section I’m filling in on lately. Instead I work only from the notes I gave myself, hoping that coming from a different brain space might give me some insight. It often does.
KEEP ALL THIS? IT SEEMS PEDANTIC, BUT I ALSO NEED TO HAVE CONVERSATIONS IN MY BOOK AT SOME POINT. MAKE THIS ONE MORE FULL OF TENSION, SO THAT THE CONVERSATION TOPIC ACTUALLY SERVES THE PLOT, MORE THAN THE PLOT SERVING THE CONVERSATION TOPIC.
Now I just reread the blog post I linked to above and am pleased to admit that I am a later-me, a modified, mature me, because here I am actually filling in those caps locks. I am putting things in, not taking things out. I am going somewhere, toward a longer, richer novel. I am going somewhere, and it will be full!