Groundhogs, Critics, Leatherface

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22 hours ago

Weekend before last, my wife suggested I tear down the vegetable garden fence and build a new one. I'd put in the old one just shy of a decade ago, and done it as best I could. Dug a 6" trench around the perimeter and buried the chicken wire to make it impervious to the groundhogs burrowed into the neighbor's foundation.

But the great tragedy I've accepted is that home ownership is Sisyphean. Even the best job is a rock that inevitably rolls back down hill. I groaned at the prospect of facing the grim calculus of a job's ease versus its durability.

I had already done the job. It was finished. I was done with it.

Of course, like my other recent posts, this ties back to my manuscript. The latest feedback has mirrored the earlier feedback and made me feel foolish for ignoring the obvious. There's no plot. Or maybe there's too many. Either way, I suspect a reader would currently turn each page with no real idea why.

There's a fix for it, of course, but it sort of raises the question of what I was going for to begin with, and whether there's any use running it through a grinder to mold it into a better form. If you made Texas Chainsaw Massacre and were told that it had a lot of promise, but the horror and violence needed to be cut and the humor and romance played up, what would the point be? If you set out to scare people, I guess you either scrap it or ignore the feedback, but maybe the real breath of life you set out with was to paint a picture of a lonely man in a skin mask, living in a desolate place, desperate to connect with new people, and you're willing to frame it in a way that people clearly want.

Ultimately, I know what I set out to convey, and tightening it up and making the story follow a clearer narrative arc doesn't need to stand at odds with it. Medicine isn't effective if no one's willing to take it, and I doubt chemists are indignant over companies adding bubble gum flavor to their cough suppressants.

So the effort is back in my court. I've distilled each scene into a sentence or two, and pasted them into the column of a spreadsheet. In the adjoining column I've carried over the scenes I could, reordered them, made alterations, cut some, added some. It's reassuring to know that the original draft of 125,000 words or so, since trimmed to 113,000, could easily come to 80-90,000 words and be more neatly within industry standards.

I brooded and felt exhausted at the prospect for a few days, but I'm ready for it. The new garden fence already contains safe and healthy plants, and I'm sure in another few weeks, I'll be as satisfied with this job as that. Groundhogs and critics can't attack flora if you patch up the holes.