Sometimes I feel like I’m not writing a book. Sometimes what I’m doing feels like Penelope’s shroud. You know, in the Odyssey, Penelope is Ulysses’ wife, and while she’s waiting for her husband to come back home from Troy, 100 suitors enter in her palace to try to marry her. News didn’t travel very fast at that time, and she didn’t know that her husband was still alive and trying to get back.
In order to fend them off and gain some time, Penelope tells them that she’ll choose a new husband when she’ll be done with a shroud she’s weaving for her father-in-law. But she has no intention to do so: every day she weaves the shroud, and every night she undoes what she’s done during the day in order to delay the choice as much as possible.
I’m not a weaver and for sure (and fortunately) I don’t have that number of unruly suitors to keep at bay, but sometimes I feel a bit like I’m Penelope. In case you’re wondering why, well, that’s because last month I decided to re-write the final ten chapters of We Gotta Get Out (out of a total of 36). I couldn’t help it, they didn’t work anymore.
I mean, there were too many parts I had pulled and squeezed together to avoid murdering too many darlings in my previous edits, but when I read it for the final time it all crumbled in front of my eyes. It just wasn’t believable anymore. And if I, the writer, found it unbelievable, it meant that the problem was quite big.
And so I did it: I tore it down, word by word, and I also found myself having to adjust some ripples in previous chapters to introduce a few of the changes I made in a logical way. You know what…it works now. I like how the story is flowing right now, much more than I did before with the previous version of the final showdown.
I know it’s crazy, especially because I had planned to publish the book by the end of the year, or at least to submit it to a publisher. But on the other hand, I know the changes I’ve made are for the better. The story flows more logically, and you can’t see my hand in the background trying to fit all the pieces together.
It’s a mistake many of us new writer tend to make: we have an idea of the plot points we want to follow, and we stick to that even when it doesn’t make sense. These are the darling we’re so reluctant to kill: thing is, we have to.
I was almost in tears as I cut and rewrote one paragraph after the other, even if I knew there was something I could save or use in a slightly different setting. But after a while, something happened: I was enjoying it again. Before that last review I made of We Gotta Get Out I was afraid of re-reading it, as if I knew something was amiss, and this is why I put it off for so long before actually sitting down. I was scared and bored by the task of keeping on with the writing, and I feared I might not have had it in me to complete ie.
This new shape the story is taking, instead, is a full-injection of hope and enthusiasm, the kind of inspiration I was waiting to end my 2022 on a high note, even though it wasn’t that big of a year for me. Now I want people to read the story, because I know it’s better than it was when I first fell in love with it. A lot better.