May 16, 2013

Tearing Into History

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Have you ever watched a building being torn down? Last week a 2300 year old Mayan temple in the Nohmul complex in Belize was leveled by a construction crew. Reportedly, it was destroyed to provide gravel for a nearby road under construction.What?

According to the Belize Institute of Archaeology, a small portion of the center of the pyramid mound was left standing. Although situated on private property, historical sites are protected by the government of Belize, and criminal charges may be filed.

Ironically, the day I heard of the destruction of the Mayan pyramid I was able to observe the destruction of a non-historical icon a former Mrs.Winners Chicken & Biscuit building. Not that this compares to the loss of a historical landmark, but it does compare to the edit process of a book 

In order to destroy a building, you need a big crane and an experienced crane driver. In editing a book, you need written pages and an editor. The crane driver/editor manipulates deep into the pages of the book and extracts what is not necessary. The unnecessary words are scooped up into a pile and deposited into your computer's trash bin. 
During the process of building-destruction, a construction crew member waters down the pile of trash so that it doesn't combust and cause a fire. For your book that could be a trusted reader(s) or critique group. Editing is a personal process even though it's part of the business. While some of your written words are going to trash, it's important to get positive reinforcement. 

When the dump truck is filled to capacity, it leaves the site. After editing is completed, one of the hardest things for me to do is hit the delete button on the trash bin. Once done, you are free from the edit process and ready to start your next project.

What does editing have to do with history? Your book or story contains history no matter the subject or genre. It represents the author's personal history. Life was happening around you while you wrote your book. I think that is why we sometimes have trouble in the edit process. If you are like me, the words I've written remind me of life events that happened, while my book and story developed. When those words are deleted, it's as if part of my history has been deleted. Sometimes it's hard to tear into history but it has to be done. You may be left with a small portion of the original but the heart of your book will allow your voice to shine through.


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