A Little Note on Editing … and on Giving Up

First off, as I write, it’s 2:41 on Christmas morning, so happy whatever holiday you celebrate on or around this date … and if you celebrate none of them, then just have a great day anyway.

I plan to spend my Christmas day with packing my bags to go home, and editing a novel.  Oh, and delicious food might figure in there somewhere.
Such a party animal.

At any rate, quick blog post because it’s been a few days.

So, I’m editing a novel.  One that I wrote.  I last worked on this novel about four months ago now – beginning of September was when I put the hard copy manuscript down.

Or rather, I shoved it into a corner and then buried it under other things, like another manuscript.  I had finished.  Done.  It wasn’t ever going to be published.  The problems were too big.  I would take what I learned and move on.  No shame in that – it would be the third manuscript to get that treatment.  The first I began when I was 11, and … we don’t talk about it anymore.  The second I began when I was sixteen, and although the characters were excellent (many people were disappointed when I gave it up), it was a 75,000 word novel with about 10,000 words of actual plot in it.  The rest was … just character development.  Neither of these stories I regret giving up.
I thought this novel would be the same.  It had plot holes you could have driven a procession of camels, acrobats, and a Mariarchi band with elephants for trumpeters through.  I had an entire character (and character arc) who would need to be scrapped and rewritten.  About half of it needed to be entirely rearranged, whole arcs and sections rewritten.  Characters needed to be removed.  Other characters needed more screen time.  And at the end of that, I still wasn’t sure if it’d be any good, anyway.  It just seemed like there were too many things to fix, and too many that could go wrong.

Of course, as I said, I picked this novel back up.  I still shudder when I look at all the work that needs doing.  I have about three lists sitting here from when I was in the process of figuring exactly which angle to come at all the problems from, and which problems to tackle first.  I’ve deliberately moved excising and rewriting a main character to about halfway down the list – I should probably do it first, but I feel like I need to warm up to it – like stretching before an exercise.  I’m going to pull a writing muscle if I try attacking this beast cold.
But then, tomorrow, I might feel like I need to just dive in, like that first moment in the shower when you turn on the water and get blasted by the freezing water until the pipes are clean and it heats up to a reasonable temperature.  I hope I do.  It would be nice to get that out of the way.  Stop me cringing every time I read a scene with that character in it.

Thing is, I now have two other manuscripts, with far less work to salvage them into something readable.  Both need the beginnings rewritten, sure, but it’s not the huge epic disaster that this novel is.  So, why didn’t I decide to leave this one lost?  Chalk it up to experience and let it go?

Well … put simply, I loved the other characters too damn much.  There is a trio of characters in this book that just make me so gleeful whenever they get together.  Character 1 takes himself too seriously, Character 2 takes Character 1 too seriously, and Character 3 doesn’t take anything seriously at all.  They’re all quite smart and articulate characters, too, so whenever I get any combo of them in a conversation together, things just go right.  And I can’t take them out of their story context.  They just wouldn’t be the same, and they wouldn’t be themselves.  It’d be a crime.

And so, the story is getting rewritten, chopped up, glued together, cannibalised and reconstructed.  Purely and simply for the sake of these three characters I couldn’t bear to let go.

This is why I recommend never burning bridges – don’t delete that story file, even if you’re certain it’s the worst thing in the universe.  The things you loved about that story to begin with may demand that you bring them back.

Except for that story I started when I was 11.  I’m very glad I lost the file for that one.
Nobody tell me they’ve found it.  It’s the holidays, for goodness’ sake.

The Christmas Window

OK, yet another post … apparently I’m on a roll this week or something.  Or maybe this is just preferable to doing my essays.  WE MAY NEVER KNOW.

So I decided to go shopping today, because there were Things I Needed to Buy.  And me being me, it was after dark before I headed out to the shop.  This is Ireland – “after dark” here means 4pm.  So it’s not quite as deserving of judgement as it might otherwise have been.

However, this means I got an amazing view of all the Christmas lights up around O’Connell street and Henry Street.  And all the Christmas decorations.  And most of them were gorgeous.  Most.

Melbournites and those who have visited Melbourne around Christmas time will know about the Myers Christmas Windows.  On Bourke Street, every year, Myers has an animatronic Christmas display, depicting a Christmas story like a living four-panel cartoon.  I used to love going to them.  My Mum still does.  They’re usually cute.  Small children are gleeful at them.

This is not one of those displays.  I just wish I’d had my camera with me so I could have photographic evidence of what I’m about to tell you.

If I start from either direction (going to the Jarvis Centre, or coming back from it), I’m going to do it injustice.  So this description is not in chronological order, but in some vague order somewhere between random and how much these things disturb me.  All you need to know to begin is that all the mannequins had cold, dead, unfeeling eyes.  I don’t know whether this was made more evident by the whimsical, colourful, sparkly decorations surrounding them or not, but I’m just going to keep repeating it otherwise.  So that’s your preparation.

A double-spread of windows was done up like a circus.  I would like to say that the male mannequin in the giant hula-hoop-come-monstrous-hamster-wheel was languishing.  I like the word languishing.  It implies comfort and a certain level of safety.  However, you cannot make a mannequin languish.  It is not in their nature.  What it did instead was jut.  It jutted, at a 45-degree angle, suspended like an acrobat with rigor mortis inside this circle of unfeeling whimsy.  He was watched by a female mannequin, who cared nothing for his plight.
I say watched.  I’m still not sure if she was watching him, or us, the poor fools outside the glass cage.
A little to the right of them was a lion tamer, scarier than the lion.  The lion, at least, was furry and looked sleepy.  Almost cuddly.  And then there was the lion tamer with the whip.
Of course, being a female mannequin in a clothing store, she was not allowed to wear sensible clothes.  No, she apparently tamed lions in a white evening gown.  I did not doubt for a moment that she was far, far too successful at this.  Her pose said “I care not for the ability to run away from this dangerous creature”.  It said “This whip?  Oh, this isn’t for the lion.”
I began to wonder if the lion was sleepy at all … maybe it was half-drugged, and thus more malleable.  Or maybe its soul was just crushed beneath the sequinned stilettos of the woman who controlled it with a pristine evening gown, and didn’t need her whip.

One thing I will say in favour of this display.  They got their merry-go-round horses right.  They were certainly merry-go-round horses, stylised and merry.  Unfortunately, the female child mannequin riding it was clearly under the wrong impression.  You cannot bend a mannequin’s legs, so what the poor thing ended up doing was lean back, legs rigid, face mercifully obscured, suggesting she was doing things with that merry-go-round horse that 6-year-old children should not know how to do.  Rituals of the damned.  Something.  Next to her was a wall of lollies, all sorted and alphabetically arranged in true UK lolly shop bottles on what might once have been a shelf before it was consumed by tinsel.  Next to it, a group of child-mannequins played, phasers set to ‘frolic’.

But perhaps the crowning jewel in the display window was in the window next to these unwitting children.  To the left were a perfectly unassuming male and female mannequin, enjoying their time together among the strewn Christmas decorations.  To the right was a ball pit, created and guarded by the lovespawn of Satan and Jack the Ripper.
The mannequin was female.  It wore a white knitted jumper, with Christmas trees on, and had a multicoloured beehive ‘do made of charming balloons.  Its makeup was glitter.  I don’t remember what it was wearing apart from that, though.  I was too worried about its face.
I said before that all the mannequins had cold, dead eyes, but believe me when I say this was worse.  Its eyes were half lidded, its face tilted down.  It looked out from between homey jumper and whimsical balloon hair with an expression that suggested the crossroads of serial murderer and Stephen King villain.  It was clearly looking out at the passers-by, sizing them up for a meat suit which it would fashion from their flesh and skeleton, leaving their entrails for the happiest of woodland animals to puzzle over, to sniff, and when the compulsion became too much, to gorge upon and submit to the vile darkness.
Don’t believe me?  From the ball pit, six pairs of legs, stocking-and-stiletto-clad, stuck vertically up, arranged in identical poses.  Occasionally, one of them rotated, jerkily and half-heartedly, either by the whims of its murderess, or to music that was not audible to we mortals outside the glass.  In other words, she displayed the remains of other mannequins she had already harvested, and found inadequate for her bloodthirsty needs.

And then, almost as an afterthought, the final window, skinny and mostly neglected by decorations, housed five mannequins of varying gender, dressed in the best of Winter Woolens – jumpers, tracksuit pants, fuzzy slippers.  Mittens.
But of course, you can’t have a winter outfit without a beanie.  These mannequins were the headless variety.  So what’s a store clerk to do?  Why, just jam the beanie on the neck stump, of course!
Did they run out of regularly-headed mannequins?  Do the heads now form the gory underlay of the Hellspawn’s ball pit, the beanies there, not to disguise the bare neck-stump, but to serve as a humourless mockery of a face?  Did the lion tamer use them as bait for her latest lion trick?

I came home mildly puzzled.  I think I’m safe though.  I’m fairly sure their corporate overlords keep them leashed to their glass case.
At least … that’s what I’m telling myself.

EDIT:  I have obtained photographs of this.
Here you go.

He just ... juts.

He just … juts.

It's the face that says it all.

It’s the face that says it all.

Just in case you didn't have a good enough look at that face.

Just in case you didn’t have a good enough look at that face.

With her victims.

With her victims.