Monday, October 27, 2008

Killing the darlings

Killing the darlings is a necessarily evil of revising. Darlings include this gem: 'She'd done this before - going through the motions amid a dazed apathy that vanquished reality.' Readers gagging. Hemingway's shit detector blaring. I am horrified.

And so it begins, the tedious, line-by-line dissection of letters and ideas and function.

I've been ignoring the book for the past two weeks, as distance helps me become more objective and removed. I salvaged the good stuff from the last draft and rewrote the whole novel with a new protagonist and secondary characters; then thought I'd be clever and change the point of view to first person. It didn't work. So then I changed the whole thing back to third person. I revised the ending twice and now have 70K words that share only the title and a few flashbacks with the most recent finished incarnation. It's a better book now, a tighter story, a more focused read. Goal now is to have it out the door by Election Day. We'll see how that goes.

During the Great Ignoring of the Book phase, I spent a few days in Edinburgh catching up with friends and basking in the glow of a proper city. I love Edinburgh. The vibe there is fabulous. I love the basement organic cafes and the Harvey Nicks shoe department and the booze dens and the castle and the hordes of Japanese tourists flashing peace signs and the mediocre bagpipers on the Royal Mile (yes, I can now judge piping talent) and the surly bus drivers and the sound of the wind whipping down Princes Street. My friend Tracey flew in from Klagenfurt on Saturday night and we spent Sunday on a whirlwind Edinburgh tour (Proper Bacon Breakfast! Castle! Elephant Cafe! Scottish Parliament! Grassmarket!) before boarding a train back to the Highlands.

Matt had a 'surprise' for us, which often means some sort of outdoor activity; Tracey's not big on the whole activity thing, so I'd prepped her for it and we were promised a flat, 5-mile walk to our destination. On Monday we drove to Kinlochbervie, where Matt had booked us a room at the local hotel. On arrival, Tracey and I fell inside, the wind whipping the doors open, and the poor manager had no idea who we were - two small, loud American lassies asking about a room booked for three. Then he saw Matt and started to get suspicious. We were the only guests at this hotel, and he thought something weird was going on. We let the staff gossip. After dinner and a few drams while Matt played the pipes, we watched Black Sheep in the room and weren't afraid to scream and laugh. The next morning the waitress didn't greet us - she just frowned and brought us our food. Such a strange place.

And then we were off. We drove to the hamlet of Blairmore (below) and began the trek across saturated moorland. (Check the rainbow! We saw four!)
Much of the scenery resembled this - gently rolling hills, yellow moors, peatbogs, rain moving across the Highlands. The wind made the lochs rival any sea waves. Many of the lochs had burst their banks, and our 'waterproof' shoes were tested by the time we arrived at the holy grail of Sandwood Bay.
It's gorgeous - a vast expanse of sand and massive waves. The lower right corner shows the ruins of a cottage said to be haunted by the ghost of a lost pirate, who died trying to find a mermaid on Sandwood Beach. (Also the site of the most recent mermaid sighting in Britain.) And the upper left is Cape Wrath, the most NW part of mainland Britain.
Of course it wouldn't be Scotland without schitzophrenic weather, and we saw it all. Bursting sunshine, driving rain, gales, fog. When we sat down to lunch, it hailed.
We gave up on lunch and soon realized how cold and wet we were, and that we still had to make it the five miles back. In driving gales. Trudging through soaked peatbogs and rocky paths in driving winds ain't the best way to spend a Tuesday. But we made it, of course, and then the sky decided to be blue again.
And the sunset was spectacular.
I love the Highlands. It feels so remote, and you have to work for the breathtaking views. It's refreshing to know there are still places like this on the planet.

Only a week left. I feel so involved in this election - perhaps because the UK press is obsessed with it, but more because I think Obama is such an amazing person. I've now read both of his books and am even more convinced that he will make a legendary president. Thanks to the evils of Facebook I'm in touch with random people from back home, many of whom are Obama supporters. Others refer to him as "BHO" and are afraid that Obama's Muslim background means he will steal their babies out of daycare or turn America into Yugoslavia - not that they know who Tito was or what he did (or where Yugoslavia was). The most ridiculous rant I heard was that Obama is the antichrist and has an Evil Plan for America. (I wish I were kidding.) The Guardian and Times have been asking Americans about the 'elephant in the corner' (race) and it's surprising how many people are admitting their friends (or themselves) may lose their nerve when in the voting booth. The good thing to come out of this is that people are questioning their beliefs on racism, on equality. I think that's important.

Sending huge Obama love into the universe.


Erik R. said...

That's an awful lot of languages on that ballot! Are there a lot of Chinese people, registered to vote in Kansas, but living abroad, who can't read English? Seems a bit odd.

Lovely pics, as usual.

KP said...

No, I vote in California as it's my last place of residence (Kansas doesn't want me - obviously). Which is cool as I got to vote on Prop 8.

Jesse & James said...

I love it. In my yoga class (which is all in japanese) one of the only words I hear in english is "peace signs" when she tells us to grab our toes with our first two fingers. Hilarious.

kelseyrwagner said...

Speaking of peace signs, I like all the broken arrows on the ballot. They're another symbol of peace, if you're familiar with Native American symbolism (or Rod Stewart ballads). Anyway, is that how you vote? Find a black pen and colour together the two halves of your arrow(s) of choice?