A cleaver or a scalpel?

The very first YA I wrote was a real labor of love. When I finished it, I couldn’t imagine how to revise it. I felt every word was perfect. Sure I would revise it a little with every rejection…with a scalpel. I would shape a sentence here and there, teasing an adjective out from the bone and carefully dissecting it before dropping it back into the whole. Then after a couple particularly hard-hitting rejections (the rejections weren’t so bad–my skin was particularly thin that week!), I tossed that YA under the bed and wrote something new. A mystery for an older audience.

There was just one problem. It sucked.

Some of it was decent enough, but the majority of it was a mishmash. I strapped on the surgical gown to start revisions. Only this time instead of a scalpel, I brought a cleaver. I hacked, rewrote, hacked some more. I cut so much my file of deletions was two-thirds the size of the actual manuscript. I thought I was leaving a trail of carnage behind but what emerged was a real story. It had a certain sharp-edged beauty to it (what wouldn’t when shaped with a cleaver?) and a symmetry all its own.

I learned a lot about revisions that time around. Let go of the scalpel, wade in, and wield that cleaver. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

6 thoughts on “A cleaver or a scalpel?

    1. Tess Grant says:

      Good point! At times, the scalpel is still the tool of choice. What I most needed to learn was how to let go of words I liked but didn’t do the trick. That’s when the cleaver is essential!

  1. Joselyn Vaughn says:

    That cleaver is really hard to use. Especially when there’s something you really like in the scene. The outtakes file is a great idea, then you don’t have to murder your darlings, just put them in a coma for possible resuscitation later.

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