Monday, May 01, 2006

Don't worry, it's benign.

There's a short story I've been obsessing about of late. I can't seem to get it out of my head, literally or figuratively. So today, I brought it to work, figuring I'd do a little editing over lunch.

The story is nearly finished, and I think it's mostly pretty good, but there was a section about half a page long that was giving me a hell of a time. It was tonally off, and it killed the momentum of the story. I've been agonizing for days over how to fix it, and today it hit me. I snatched my red pen from behind my ear, drew a box around the offending prose, and crossed it out.

Oftentimes, this sort of whole-cloth approach doesn't quite cut it (ouch, an accidental-pun/mixed-metaphor double whammy!) The section in question might introduce a character or a concept integral to the story, and cutting it completely will cause a cascade of panicked rewrites. Today, though, the section I cut was a discrete quantum of awful, and cutting it didn't hurt a thing.

I've decided such helpfully self-contained bits of bad writing are heretofore dubbed benign. The more invasive bits, obviously, would be malignant. Write it down -- all the cool kids will be saying it in no time. Unless, of course, all the cool kids are already saying it, in which case I'm just the last kid in school to stop tight-rolling his pants.