I’m in the middle of revision. A picture book revision, which, were it not one of my very favorites that has been set in stone for quite some time, would not be that difficult. But I’ve noticed that it’s really hard for me to see differently something for which I’ve found a format, something that holds together and works as is. Then you get a revision request from two amazing editors, both saying you should change a key part of the story, and you sit up and pay attention. You think, “okay, it means killing many of my darlings, but okay”. And so you gear yourself up to do what you need to do. No emotional attachment.
It’s taken me four months to get up the nerve.
“Beyond the pale” is a term that’s used to describe behavior that is inappropriate or unacceptable. But it originated from the Latin pallus, or stake, or more precisely a fence or border made from these stakes. Behavior that is outside the borders set by society. So while it’s not a perfect term to describe what I’m feeling, I can’t help but think of the term to describe the difficulty I’m having with the revision of this picture book. I can’t see beyond the pale, beyond the borders I originally gave myself. Anything outside of the original focus of the story requires that I step to the other side of the fence and leave some of my darlings behind. And when you know these characters as well as I do, it’s hard to leave one of them behind, to wave goodbye across the fence, bid her a good life and hope her dreams still come true.
Last night I finally did it. I cut out what couldn’t stay and tried to come up with a new framework for the story. It’s going to get much much worse before it gets better. I’m over here on the other side of the fence, beyond the pale, not knowing whether I can make it work, or whether, even if I make it work, I’ll ever be satisfied with the new emotional center.
But will I ever know if I don’t try?