When editing, it’s possible to become too attached to the red pen. This results in essential parts of the story being cut from the book because they are not directly informing the plight of the protagonists. This week, I worked through outlining the major rewrites of my project with a focus on cutting out anything that clouded the central conflict between Charlie and Sam. I ended up devaluing Amy and Jo as characters and their roles in the book. Not exactly what I was going for.
Amy’s transformation began with Sam’s. One main thing I learned from outlining my first draft was the necessity of separating Charlie and Sam. The distance helps them gauge their positions and understand their roles in the larger situation and come to their conclusions by the book’s end. In the first draft, Sam and Charlie briefly separate but it’s Amy who steps back from the conflict for a long time. When outlining the current draft, I didn’t want to overload the plot by having both girls leave, so I decided to let Sam go and have Amy stay, not realizing the impact it would have on her character. By removing Amy’s conflict with Charlie, I take away her boundaries, her emotions and her personal stakes in the story. That diminishes Amy and Charlie’s friendship and is a disservice to Amy’s character.
Jo shares Amy’s fate, though in a different way. Early on, I arbitrarily decided to make her a professional gymnast. I needed a way to remove Sam from the situation on the night of the second suicide attempt and used Jo’s career to do it. The reality is, I know precious little about professional gymnastics, and despite my research, it doesn’t fit well in the timeline of the rest of the book. I decided to remove it, and Jo instantly became less significant than she had been. Without the meets, she and Sam have less opportunities to spend time together, and without her training, it’s unlikely she’d be as absent as she is. Jo’s athletic journey, marking her success, also serves as a visual statement about how abuse survivors can thrive and become healthy as they grow. Her wellness and coping methods are on display in her sports and even her authority is diminished without her them.
Neither change was made to hurt Jo or Amy; I made the changes to support Sam. I didn’t want the redundancy of having two characters leave the situation, despite their different motives, and thought it made more sense for Amy’s relatively small arc to take that cut, rather than Sam, the protagonist. I changed Jo’s story because I don’t know much about gymnastics and am running out of time to research it properly. I wanted to keep the story focused on Sam and Charlie, and I didn’t realize the cost that that decision had on the other characters, and their arcs and personalities.
Understanding the mistakes that I’ve made is a good thing. It helps me know how to fix it. My mistake was that I did not understand Amy and Jo’s full contributions to the book, and I was trying to make decisions based on that understanding and what would be best for Sam. I didn’t consider the group; I know better now. Amy and Jo are fundamental to the story and cannot be removed or changed without changing everything. I look forward to returning them to full potential.
Thank you for joining me on my journey and for your input and wisdom.
Project Status: The rewriting continues.