In the previous post I blithely announced that I was finished, done, absolutely and finally done with the structural revisions. This morning, working on temporal nits (the book has day-by-day notation in some places, and Editor had found some of them to be either confusing or obviously wrong–fossils of earlier drafts), I found a great whopping whale of a fossil lying right across the way. I didn’t see it before. Editor didn’t comment on it. Another reader here didn’t see it.
A fossil, in this context, is something that used to be in the story, isn’t supposed to be now, but is–at least in part. It’s the bone of a creature that isn’t here now, but it sufficiently interesting to have readers digging around trying to figure out what it is, why it’s there, and how it fits into the story. My kind of writer–the kind that starts off not knowing everything and unable to outline without writing the book first–produces fossils naturally. I discover, multiple times, that something I wrote a week ago (or even an hour ago) is simply wrong. Doesn’t belong. Needs to be taken out.
Recently deposited fossils are the easiest to find, of course. Even two days later, I can remember that two days before I decided that glitchy-glumpy-whatsit never happened, because I’ve just written what did. Older ones, more deeply embedded, are harder. Other eyes than mine find them usually, because eyes fresh on a manuscript will spot things that don’t fit, while the tired eyes of the writer, overly familiar with the storyline, slide over them. But sometimes…this fossil, once a small oxbow of plot off the main line, was excised, I thought, back in December when someone in the early reader group said “That won’t work, because of mumble-mumble-blurgh.” And I realized instantly that they were right, and went in and yanked out what I thought was the entire skeleton. Today, correcting day-notation, I was nose to nose with a large piece of said fossil, still in situ. When I mentioned it to the other reader in the house, he looked startled and said “Yes–I saw that–it didn’t stick out for me as wrong–and there’s another bit of it farther on but I can’t remember exactly where.”
Now if there are two scattered bones of that fossil, did I really remove the big lump where that plot bit was talked about by the characters as it was planned? Can I be sure? If not, where might it be (ahead of the thing I just dug out, vaporized, and replaced with what really happened, yes, but that’s 500+ pages of “before…” to search through.) That thin little scream in the corner of the room? That’s my brain begging for relief. Never mind. It’s my job.
And you, readers, will be happy not to have a fossil that makes no sense and isn’t attached to the story in a useful way. Fossils are not Easter Eggs. The characters were smarter enough not to do that stupid, time-wasting thing that would be impossible when they got to the point where mumble-mumble-blurgh was.
I will be happy when I have fixed all the day-notations and found the other for-sure fossil remnant. And then tried every search term I can think of to locate any other related fossils. (In real life I’m fascinated by fossils and love finding them. In writing, I hate them.)