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.

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6 thoughts on “A cleaver or a scalpel?

    • 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. 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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