Sure, I added stuff; I added whole sections, important historical and theoretical framing, and discussions of works I hadn't mentioned before. But as I added, I also subtracted. When I sent the book out in August, the introduction was barely 14 pages (4,600 words, counting notes). I felt it was strong for its length and gave a good sense of the project as a whole, and I knew I'd be expanding it later. But it took tremendous effort to get to where I am now, at 22 pages or 7,300 words--and the limited increase in page count doesn't reflect the amount of new material.
This is a problem I've always had. I'm not one of those people who writes painfully slowly, sentence by sentence, polishing each phrase as she goes; I've learned well how to produce shitty first drafts just to get something on the page. But revising, for me, always involves a lot of cutting. Sometimes there are sections that really do become irrelevant, but I also have a mania for eliminating redundant sentences and tightening sections so they move more quickly; I hate to retread too much old ground, and I don't want to bore my reader.
But as frustrating as losing pages can be, I'll admit that I'd always considered my method beyond reproach. My scholarly prose is tight and well-crafted, stylistically interesting, and obsessively well-organized. Frankly, I felt most writers could learn a thing or three from the way I revised.
However, I live with a writer who writes very differently from me. When I first started reading Cosimo's work, I was continually slashing out repetitions and recombining sentences for him. "You said almost exactly the same thing earlier in this paragraph! They're both well-phrased--but you don't need TWO sentences that do the same work!" He'd patiently explain that it was deliberate: he was highlighting or tweaking a key point, or putting it more pithily, in order to make sure the reader got the importance of a particular claim. (And, you know, he's got an MFA, so maybe he knows something about prose style.)
So it's been dawning on me that not just my writing voice but my whole approach to writing is deeply personal and idiosyncratic. And one of my idiosyncrasies is a visceral, even irrational hatred of repetition. When I was younger, being asked to repeat myself by someone who hadn't gotten what I'd said the first time--or who had let his attention wander for a minute--would make me so suddenly angry, and so suddenly sad, that I often had to fight back tears. It felt like I'd been slapped: whoever I'd been talking to hadn't been paying attention to me. I wasn't worth paying attention to.
And then Horace posted this link on Facebook, and under my own Myers-Briggs type I found my "efficiency" listed as a potential writerly pitfall:
[You] tend to be good at weeding out information that isn't pertinent to the project. Be sure to keep audience needs in mind, however. Concise is good; terse is not.I'm a true believer in the MBTI--at least as a tool for understanding how people process information, make decisions, and solve problems--but it's not something I'd ever thought to apply to my writing. And this jibes uncomfortably well with what I'd been beginning to wonder myself.
So fine. I'll try it. I'll try to be a little less tight-fisted with my prose and a little more expansive with my ideas. I'll try not to assume that every reader can grasp the full extent of my brilliance in a single sentence. It goes against my nature. But then, we INTJs are a deeply misunderstood people.