Editing is tedious, backbreaking, thankless work. Copy editing is bad enough…going back to fix those glaring (and sometimes not so glaring) grammar and spelling faux pas…and running through each detail with your fact-checking comb isn’t much better…but that’s nothing compared to making the painful, and often necessary, decision of taking out passages or characters that you love, but are just not right for the story.
But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about all the superbly shittastic stuff you wrote that you had no business writing in the first place. This is about the passages that are so horrifying, so absolutely irredeemable, that after deleting them you also downloaded a hard drive cleaner to purge them from this earth, and memory, for all of time.
WAIT A MINUTE. Not so damn fast. Why would you delete these gems? You do know there’s an entire fiction contest just for terribad (Yeah, I made up a word. Deal with it) writing? And you can submit more than once? Get thee to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest immediately.
Besides, let’s be honest. There’s no PTSD for writers. What was once seen cannot be unseen.
Myself, I always write everything in versions. Anytime I make anything other than cosmetic edits, I save a new version. This means that, for the most part, I have everything I’ve ever written. I might need to write a codicil in my will specifying that whoever gets my baller fortune of $5 is also responsible for downloading one of those hard driver cleaners…
St. Charles at Dusk went through dozens and dozens of revisions and versions over the years before it was published. You can imagine that cornucopia of fail, then, that exists in the dark halls of the “archived” folders. Well, you’re in luck because self-deprecation is totally my cup of tea, so I’m here to share a few of these beauties with you.
WARNING: TERRIBLE WRITING AHEAD
In St. Charles, Charles had four children by his maid Lisette, because his wife is an insufferable bitch. Originally, I thought it would be a “good idea” to have this be a result of her fancy voodoo rituals.
How Lisette was able to have four daughters, four of what Charles wanted most, and nothing more has undergone assumption outside as well as inside the walls of the firm. It was no secret that her grandmother, Adele, was practicing voodoo that she had picked up from a priestess in the Vieux Carré. Adele was said to have spent weeks and, later, months at a time away from home, off in the bayou several miles from the city limit. Her daughter Margeaux, Lisette’s mother, began joining her on these outings more and more frequently just before Lisette began having Charles’ children.
When Oz gets word that Adrienne has turned up alive, he goes to the bayou to find her. This passage is chock full of terrible cultural stereotypes aplenty.
The following morning, I woke up to the sound of the cicadas and the sun penetrating through the thin sheath of curtains. There was truly nothing like a Louisiana morning in the dead heat of August.
No sooner did my eyes open, did I hear a knock at the door of my motel room.
“Just a second,” I called out as I slipped a white tee over my head. Great timing. I had chosen the perfect day to enjoy some extra shut-eye.
The knock came again, this time more impatient.
“Hold on, would you? I’m getting dressed!” I yelled as I fumbled for my jeans. I put both feet in and jumped as I yanked them up. Before I knew it, my balance failed me and I fell into the nightstand, knocking off the lamp. The knocking stopped as the sound of it shattering silenced us both.
“Now look what you made me do. I’m not paying for this,” I muttered furiously under my breath. Oh well, the thing was cheap anyways. I pulled myself back up and looked through the cloudy peephole. On the other side stood what appeared to be a man, although the brim of the old hat was too large for me to tell from such a small perspective. He was wearing a torn red and black flannel and some faded black jeans.
What appeared to be a stem of some local vegetation protruded from the mouth beneath the hat.
“Welcome to the bayou,” I whispered to myself and opened the door. “Can I help you?”
“Git out here boy! I got other things to do today; I ain’t got all the time in the world!” The man snapped. I finally got a good look at him. His face seemed too old for his age, which couldn’t be more than forty. Years of hard work reflected in his eyes. In all of my twenty-five years, I had never been into Cajun Country. I felt like a tourist already and the day had only just begun.
“Sorry, I must have lost track of time. My name is Austin, but I go by Oz,” I said, extending my hand in the friendliest possible of gestures.
The burly man looked down on me, but made no move to take my hand. “Oz? What kint of a name is dat?”
“My cousins all had a hard time saying Austin when I was little. All they could make out was the first part, Oz. It just kind of stuck,” I explained, and immediately regretted it after seeing the look on the man’s face. It was most likely a mirror of the one on mine.
“Creoles,” he muttered with disgust. “Well, git on wit ya. I ain’t got all day boy. I’m here to deliver a message.”
“I’m sorry, who are you?”
Obviously there’s more where these came from, but that’s about all the public humiliation I can endure for one day.
Do you feel better about your own writing now? If not, you should.