Well, I’ve done it again. I believed I had finished the next book, even found a literary-sounding title for it: The Hedge. Even had a Manhattan to celebrate last night before my husband and I settled in to try to understand The Young Pope. But that’s another story.
This morning I decided to look over the short list of words I had jotted down as I wrote. I’m inclined to use the same word over and over again. (It feels so right in the first draft) and I think this time the word will be “pull” as in “pull up a chair, pull out a hanky, pull up into a driveway.” Not “Pull out a gun,” like my last book.
I bring the 220 perfect pages (I have been revising for a week) to the screen and type “pull” on the Search in Document function. The list that comes forward looks as if it is suffering from a plague, orange spots, fifty or more scattered on, seems like, every page. How many synonyms does “pull” have? I try a few. I can do this. At about the tenth change, I realize I cannot just change all the “pulls” to another word. Each has to be looked at in its verbal environment, individually assessed. Okay. I have time. It’s snowing and icy outside. I have two frozen meals in the fridge.
About, maybe at “pull” # 40, I hit a wrong button or fill in the wrong space or something. All of my “pulls” and any others that still linger in the next hundred pages have been transformed to “takes.” This change might make sense in some instances, does not in most others, and the result is definitely as bad too many “pulls.”
The plague has spread.
Now, four hours later, and not yet finished, I have gotten rid of sixty out of sixty-five “takes.” (It seems that in the original draft, I had overused “take” as well as “pull”.)
The only thing, beside the glass of white wine I’ve finally poured, that makes me feel better about spending an entire day searching for two words is a memory I have of my first novel, Wednesday Club, a story of a counselor and her five counselees, as they all struggle through divorce, abuse, bullying, and really bad Teachers (and that’s only the counselor’s side of the story). For some reason, I did the same search then as I did today, when one word that kept cropping up no matter what was happening on the page. “Smile.”
One hundred and ten times in three hundred pages. Little kids and their counselors smile a lot, if given the chance. I left a lot of “smiles” in the manuscript (what other word fits?), and the book never got published, even by me. But it’s my favorite story. Maybe when the ice and snow melts and I recover from today’s session, I can go out, get a little exercise, get the blood flowing once more, and I’ll look at and love Wednesday Club one more time.