I’m going to spend next week revising THE CASTLE OF WOLFENBACH. My agent gave me two tasks: A) to rewrite the ending and B) to cut the journey to Wolfenbach short. So, as you can see, revisions involve the dreaded c-word: cutting. Argh! Cutting is always necessary of course; it tightens the web of story, gets rid of excess baggage and makes the whole novel sparkle.
Unfortunately, I’m really, really bad at it. :-/
And to cut the journey to Wolfenbach short … What to leave in? What to cut? Surely not the Mouse Tower episode which introduces the formidable Widow Chisholm, who’s going to invoke terror in the hearts of Wolfenbach’s rats and its owner (i.e., the hero) alike? Surely not the terrible snowstorm, which bodes evil for the future of my poor heroine? Surely not the episode in the inn in Kirchwalden, where Cissy learns that her intended is considered as dangerous as a wild beast and likely to rip her apart should she be so foolish as to darken his doorstep? And most definitely not the panorama of the Rhine-Main-area, a lovely intertextual reference to Anna Seghers’s THE SEVENTH CROSS!
A few years ago I helped with the preparations of the new critical edition of THE SEVENTH CROSS and had to read the novel five times within a month (no need to mention, is there, that afterwards I knew the thing by heart — including all the differences between the first edition, printed in Mexico, and the old Parisian manuscript, which Seghers had to abandon when the German troops reached Paris and which then found its way into an archive in Berlin where it lay forgotten for the next several years). Despite Seghers’s obvious problem with names (e.g., nearly all of the female characters are called Elisabeth), the novel is a brilliant study of society in Nazi Germany and tells the story of seven men who manage to flee from a concentration camp. Six of them either die or are hunted down, but with the help of old friends and perfect strangers, the seventh indeed manages to slip through the net of the Hitler regime. What I find particular interesting about the novel is that it is set in the area between Frankfurt and Mainz, i.e., where I live and work. So in WOLFENBACH I included a reference to her wonderful panoramas of this part of the country and of its history:
Their ship glided on, and Cissy admired the hills where once the fires of Celtic altars had illuminated the night, where the Romans had erected the Limes and made these hills the rim of the civilized world. They had brought the knowledge of cultivating wine, and still the grapes ripened along the banks of the river. Countless armies had marched through this land, peoples had come and mingled and disappeared, and still their legacy lived on, strong and insistent, and Cissy admired it all, the ding of the steamship in her ears.
And after having to read THE SEVENTH CROSS five times within a month, I absolutely refuse to cut this snippet from my novel! :O)
So the problem remains: what the heck shall I cut out? *sigh*