Last night I made stirfry because I had a bunch of food that was about to go south, and you can put anything in stirfry. So I did. It’s not bad–just had some for lunch–because it turns out if you pour enough tamari and sesame oil and garlic on vegetables, they always taste good. But it was lacking direction. There’s so much stuff in there that I just added chow mien noodles and concentrated on the tamari and the crunch. I mean, it has to be healthy–green beans, peas, mushrooms,bok choy, celery, scallions, half a tomato left over from my sandwich, garlic–but there wasn’t any there there. I’m thinking that’s what happened with the first draft of Nita.
I just kept throwing in things that I wanted to write. People with fire on their palms. Twins. Businesses with awful pun names. Ranger Rich. Socks. Cthulhu. Jimmy. Jeo falling for Daphne. The Hotels. Button the Demon Slayer. Thanatos as grandpa. Ukobach’s father, for god’s sake. Belia and the panic at the hellhound breeder. Rab’s romance with the newspaper guy. Breakfast. Mom, the serial killer. And that’s not the half of it. What is this book about? Oh, right, two cosmically-out outsiders falling in love. Huh.
I think the key is that that’s all good in a discovery draft, swing wide. But then in the NEXT draft, you start with your spine–Nita and Nick falling in love–and you pare away everything that doesn’t attach to that spine.
So what does have impact on the romance?
Twins actually undercuts Nita’s isolation, so Mort has to go.
Jeo and Daphne are a foil for Nick and Nita and a plot point. I’ll keep the set-up but nix their HEA.
• The socks become a plot point in the romance. They stay.
• Cthulhu. Not sure about that. I love it that it’s in there and that Nita has a stuffed one, and that Nick uses is as an analog to his reptile brain/id/emotions waking up, and Nita proposes it as the Big Bad and Nick starts to use it, too, showing their adapting each other’s language. Plus it’s a metaphor for what the big bad is doing . . . I think I can keep it.
Dumb names for businesses. This does nothing for the romance, but it’s good for setting, so I’ll cut them back. I don’t need lists, just a couple of names and then wherever the characters go.
• Ranger Rich’s smite is a major move in their relationship. He stays. And goes on the page, of course.
• The Hotels (and Dorothy and Mr. Alcevedo) are needed as victims, but I don’t need so much of them. Nita and Nick argue about them . . . tie them closer to the relationship and they can stay.
• Thanato as grandpa and Ukobach’s dad: now that I see them together, they’re part of that family thing. Nick’s family is all dead (he thinks, he doesn’t know about the art gallery in Ohio), Nita’s dad being all in even if he’s not her biological father, Nita accepting Thanatos as grandpa, Ukobach sneaking onto Earth to get his kid out of Hell Jail, Keres as warrior sister, Mom coming to the rescue at the end, the team becoming family . . . that’s all a mess, but if I got a grip on it, it would be part of the romance as a move to community, pulling everything together. Must cogitate.
Jimmy. He’s dead, let him go.
• Belia. Well, Belia stays, but I need to tie her closer to the romance; she gets there in the end, but right now she’s pretty much Ficelle Central. And I’m keeping the poodle.
Rab’s romance. Sigh. I don’t think it’s working, and it’s not supporting the main plot. But I liked it. Maybe if I do a sequel.
I know there’s more stuff that should go–Vinnie pretty much disappears in the last half of the book, that scene with Dorothy and the doilies is out as is the devil bear Nick buys from her–but I think I can save the stuff that sticks to the romance plot while throwing overboard everything else. It’s the romance, stupid.
Moral: Everything and the kitchen sink is fine for discovery drafts, but then prune that sucker right away or you’ll grow attached to the stuff that doesn’t matter. Which I will certainly keep in mind when I start Alice and the next time I make stir fry.