Keeping it simple

One of my family’s favorite sayings* is just one word, and it comes from the movie We Are Marshall: 

“Simplify!”

Unlike the movie It’s Complicated,** simplify is not just a sentence, but a verb (and often, a solution). When we repeat that line, it’s obligatoire to speak slowly and adopt a southern accent. And when I worked on the final edit of my latest novel, UNDERWATER, I tried to simplify: I cut some (unnecessary) backstory, clarified the timeline, and streamlined the plot.

photo

But – très important – I also added some depth.

It wasn’t a simple process. It took a lot of reflection, and some trial and error. It’s part of the work of a work-in-progress that can be difficult, for me. But it’s worth it – ça vaut la peine. 

So, under the surface, there were some currents of struggle. For a few days, I resisted diving into the edit. Just like when I go to the pool, I had to test the water – with my toes. I fixed the easy stuff first, then broke my editor’s feedback down into managable tasks. I stayed in the shallow end of the pool for a few days. Then I started swimming, and soon – happily, and mercifully – I got into a rhythm.

[That rhythm thing must be what football players experience when they drive down the field – when they’re “in the zone.”]

Since publication, I’ve gotten some good reviews (Yay!) and many compliments from readers. I’ve also answered many questions, trying not to reveal too much. Lots of people have told me that the ending took them by surprise, and that the story was not a predictable one. Some have asked how I came to know about some of the specifics and story details, and write about them. Others have been intrigued by the novel’s theme, and how I developed the plot.

Was it a simple process? Mais non. But when I was treading water in the writing, when I was sinking into the mind of the villain, and when I plunged into the final edit, I remembered one thing above all:

Simplify!

* Here are some other family sayings taken from movie lines (guess which):
1. “I’ve made my decision. Pull the plug!”
2. “Who ya gonna call?”
3. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
4. “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
 
** We also like the “It’s Not Complicated” commercials, with those adorable first graders answering simple questions…

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