Thursday, July 2, 2009

Minus 12 pages, but that's small potatoes

I worked through Ch. 7 today, probably one of the strongest , and got 2 pp. out, for a total of minus 12 pp. in this draft. Sitting on 381 pp. now.

But the page count is maybe about to get thrown out the window with a dramatic edit--cutting whole chapters out.

This is one kind of edit I have needed to consider but have so far worked around and avoided. One, there are some chapters that do important work but are not very different from other chapters, so there's a question of whether or not that work is distinctly important. Two, there are some chapters that may just depart from the main story too much and, while doing something I like and want to hang onto, don't do enough that's important to the main story.

The focus on "intention" that I've been writing a lot about has helped me get some of that sorted out so far, mainly by helping me build up and highlight what is uniquely important in a chapter. But now I've come to a place where the question "What is the intention of this chapter?" has no good answer. Looking at things that way has made it apparent that the chapter probably has to come out entirely.

This is a chapter I've complained about many times. (Ch. 8 in the current counting. Ch. 6 in previous drafts I think.) It cost a lot of struggle in the first draft. It ran to about 75 pp. of material at different points. It's been revised with several different endings and, with great difficulty, chopped down to 25 pp, which is still the longest in the book. My readers have loved it on its own terms. It features a very well developed character and a lot of drama. But it is a digression from the main story. It's essentially a little novella that grew up like a wildflower in the middle of the book. Because of how much I like it, I kept thinking I could make clear how it does connect to the rest of the book, but in doing so I was confusing the minor importance of backstory with the imperative of present action.

The good news is that the chapter created another little ripple in the plot that necessitated an odd little chapter later on that never felt right and I couldn't figure out how to get rid of. (Ch. 10 in the current counting I think.) Removing Ch. 8 should make it easier to solve that problem at least.

There are a couple of arguments for going slow on this decision. One, the chapter isn't totally irrelevant. It does have some details that are important, so I would have to find a graceful to get those in elsewhere. Two, there are questions about the effectiveness of some other chapters, like I say, and I hate to do anything drastic in this one spot without knowing what my plan is for the other spots. Third is a question of pacing. The reader is experiencing a flow up to this point of how much time passes between chapters, and removing this will disrupt that pacing.

But if a writer is this unable to account for why a chapter is relevant, probably they should stop thinking about it and just cut it. I've had to cut stuff with less certainty to get to this point. Tomorrow morning is when I would start on revising Ch. 8, so I have another day to stew on it.

No comments: