But I managed, finally, on Friday, to figure out a way over, under, or around that wall. I put together what I think is the fourth outline for this chapter so far (entitled "new-new outline"). I determined that some of the big, detailed bits I had cranked out this week were going to go in a chapter that I thought was already done, but that on second thought, will probably have to be lightly reconceptualized. Today, I wrote provisional headings for each of the subsections, and sometimes each paragraph, making notes as to what parts of the old MS went where.
And then the unmaking began.
At the end of last week, I had almost 14,500 words in this chapter.
At the end of this week, I had added a little over 1,000 words to that.
And now, after having re-configured and pulled and plugged... I ultimately pulled the plug on almost exactly a third of my words. Sitting here at this very moment, I have just under 10,500 words.
I'd be more freaked out, except for three things:
- The words are not really gone-gone. Many of them, as I said, are going into another chapter -- I already have a home for them. And others (though surely not all) may find homes eventually.
- I've done this before, much more definitively: I ruthlessly deleted -- I mean, made really, really gone -- somewhere around 35 hard-won pages of my first dissertation chapter, and when writing the book, I made the decision to cut an entire chapter that just wasn't working. In both cases, it was scary, and in both cases, after the shock wore off, what I had left was ever so much better.
- I like counting words, just like I like fitness monitors and to-do lists I can check off and little chore charts with gold stars. I like visible stats on my progress. BUT -- and heed me well here -- I've learned that it matters so much less how many words you have than whether they're the right words.