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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Revenge and Editing Best When Served Cold

What is it about time that empowers us to slash and burn?

I took an unexpected break from writing my third book. I was in the weeds. The story was muddy, characters were misbehaving, and I spent many more hours staring at the screen than writing. Backstory encroached like a dreaded Kudzu vine and forward momentum ground to a halt.

Then life intervened. You know the drill. Graduations. Aging parents. A death. Spending time at my keyboard became reactive, not proactive and creative. Rather than beating myself up about my writing failures, I gave myself permission to unplug.

Then something wonderful happened.

In a span of time marked "unproductive," a heartless distance bloomed.

I reread my opening pages and I knew my launchpad was sound. A few more pages in and I began to delete. My "Dumped Passages" word count burgeoned while my "Working MS" word count whithered. 

Editing, like revenge, is easiest when done at an emotional distance. A search of the phrase, "revenge is best when served cold" found several orgins, one of which credited a Pashtun proverb of getting back at someone who has wronged you when you have a clear mind and not hot with anger. My favorite was in Urban Dictionary:

  • Old saying from the Mafiosi in Sicily. Tells that the best payback is the one that comes with planning, and that brings the most horrendous pain to your enemies when they are not expecting and are just enjoying the fruits of all the dishonor they brought upon you. One must wait so he can really inflict pain to those who wronged him. Careful planing is necessary so your enemies will suffer terribly, but you won't be harmed by the Law or by your enemies' allies.
This one resonated. The time away from active writing allowed me to mull over my narrative. What was the core story? The enemy was revealed in subplots and backstory. Stepping away allowed me to see them for what they were--instruments of dishonor. I was able to plan their demise with calculated precision. I became an assassin and killed off my little darlings.

I've hacked off limbs and buried the evidence. Now it's time to dust of my trousers and get back to work.