You never know what you’ll find when you keep looking. During my visit to Vancouver Island last week I went beachcombing. I was hoping to find sea glass — bits of broken glass reshaped and frosted by the weathering of salt water and sand. Thanks to the efforts of my companions I came home with several pieces.
There were other treasures, too: an assortment of shells, attractive stones and driftwood fragments to add to my small collection at home. I also discovered a piece of branching coralline algae, or coral seaweed.
Dr. J. Floor Anthoni, in his article, The intertidal rocky shore, says,
“Coralline algae could well be the most amazing plants in the sea, as they are found from the shallowest rock pool to deeper than any plant can grow; from the cold temperate seas to the warm tropical coral reefs where they are perhaps the most important reef builders.” With deposits of calcium carbonate around their cell walls they can be found encrusted on rocks or as “articulated” branching plants.
This little piece, like the sea glass and shells, isn’t uncommon on our coastal beaches, but it was “a find” for me… one I almost missed. The delicate white branches were easy to overlook among the rocks where the waves had left it, because I was focused entirely on searching for coloured glass. Now that I have it, I think it may become the dominant feature of my whole collection.
Here comes the inevitable writing analogy. (You knew there’d be one, didn’t you?)
During my last two weeks of ms revisions I’ve been bent on streamlining passages, cutting superfluous words and unnecessary scenes. I’ve removed an entire sub-plot, and deleted a chapter. (I hasten to qualify ‘removed’ and ‘deleted’ by saying I paste any significant sections into a blank document to save, just in case I change my mind.)
As I slashed away, I almost … but not quite … did the clichéd toss-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater thing. I axed a gem. Well, perhaps not precious words by someone else’s standards, but a small scene that, when stripped of unessentials, stood out as the ideal way to show an aspect of the protagonist’s character that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Fortunately, I realized what I’d done and was able to retrieve the treasure.
In both cases, on the beach and in my manuscript, I learned that it’s possible to become too focused on one thing and thus miss something else more important.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you worked through a revision only to feel you’ve lost something valuable en route? How can you ensure it doesn’t happen again?