Larry picked up his pen and drew a line through the sentence, “Somebody just threw a whole pile of stinking bat guano on that!”
Distressed, I stopped chewing my drippy Reuben for a millisecond. “Uh! You took out my bat guano?”
“Why?” he asked. “Do you LOVE it?” That’s how our most lengthy, quasi-heated discussions begin—when he wants to cut something I love.
I shook my head. “No. I just love the words bat guano.”
Our bi-monthly meetings progress as follows: we meet at Perkins after I get off work, he orders a Coke and I choose a sandwich. I eat while he edits the chapter we’re currently working on. I watch him make marks as I try to read his comments upside down. When my sandwich is gone and I finish wiping the grease off my arm, it’s my turn at the manuscript.
Bat guano turned out to be a non-issue. It’s gone. What did turn out to be an issue revolved around a single scene—a shootout. The conversation went a bit like this: “Who knows who, and how do they know each other? I thought we decided…” “Well, back in Chicago...” “Wait, that won’t work because…” “Okay, maybe they don’t know each other…” “They have to know each other, or this next part won’t work—we’d have to rewrite the whole thing.”
Larry agreed that my way would be easiest, with less backtracking and rewriting. But is that the direction we took? Of course not. We compromised—an act which is physically painful for me.
I like what we decided, though, and now we have to work on it to have it ready for our next critique group meeting. The story will be better in the long run, but rewriting is as big a challenge as writing the thing in the first place.
As we left the restaurant, I said, “This was a really productive meeting.”
“What? We just have more questions about the rest of it!”
“Yes, but we found the answers we needed for this chapter.”
And that’s what writing a novel is all about. The baby steps.