Thanks Mr. Speltz! – or – Paralysis by Analysis

For the last three weeks we’ve been going through the manuscript of “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter” with a metaphorical magnifying glass and a scalpel. Every comma, every period elicited a short debate. It was honed as finely as my wife Tori and I could make it. It was ready.

And then we took one more pass through it. Very, very little left in the nit-picking department. But suddenly we were taking a wider view.

“Chapter 15. What is that about? How does it advance the story? Why is it there?” And suddenly I saw it not as a nice transition from one scene to another, but an anchor, dragging the whole thing down, slowing the pace. Sure there were a few good bits in there. But did I need them? Or was I showing off?

Same with half of chapter 26, and all of chapters 30 and 31. There were some good bits in there, but I can save them or toss them, incorporate them elsewhere or delete them forever, and the story will be better.

I set aside the scalpel. Tomorrow I’m taking one more pass at the book, with a sledge hammer.

I was reminded of when I took geometry in high school. The teacher was Mr. Speltz (David Speltz, who became the star of my first creative endeavor, and my first exploration of anarchy, a comic strip I called “Super Speltz!” But that’s a different story.) He was talking about a line AB, with A as the beginning point on the line and B the final. If you want to travel between points A and B, you have to cross a point halfway between them, call it point C. And to get to point C, you have to cross a point halfway between it and A, call it D. And so on into infinity. Because points are not real, and take up no space, there’s always an infinite number of points between you and your goal. Which suggests to the mathematically challenged, such as myself, that it’s impossible to travel at all, because to get anywhere you have to cross an infinite number of points, each of which is separated by another infinite number of points. Paralysis by analysis.

And that’s what I was trying to do – show everything that happened between Point A, when Chrissie’s father walks aboard the ship and sails away, and Point B, when she’s standing on the cliff over the ocean, battling for her life against the pirate captain. And of course I can’t do that. It’s not just what you put into the story – it’s what you leave out. Or, as I said when I read chapter 15 – Who cares??!?

So some vaguely interesting scenes of shipboard life, or way-too-detailed descriptions of how Chrissie sneaks into the pirate camp, are going by the board. The book will be a little shorter than I’d thought, a little tighter, and much, much better.

I don’t regret having written them. But I am sure I’d have regretted much more leaving them in.

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