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Friday, April 6, 2012

Fifty-one Minus Fifteen

The difference in that little equation is the number of pages I’ve got left in the first part of my WIP after  readers told me I needed to pick up the pace and cut out most of the backstory at the beginning of my book. The criticism didn’t surprise me, but I struggled to make the changes, especially because I am in love with my original first sentence.  After sulking for a while though, I decided not to marry it.  To do what needed doing, that splendid—I dreamed it up one night— group of words had to be relegated to the beginning of the second chapter, where they currently reside. That line was a great hook, but it wouldn’t do me a bit of good if the following pages were a bunch of bla, bla, bla.   And here’s a bit of news.  It appears I’m pretty skilled at bla, bla, bla.

One of my readers said something like:  “Sometimes I think we write the backstory because as the writer we need to know it. We’re telling ourselves the story.”  And I agree.  After writing and editing a first draft, I do know the details of the daily existence of these imaginary folks I’ve developed. But a reader doesn’t need all that excess, and to tell you the truth, even my eyes glazed over as I read the blow-by-blow.  So, I’m chalking up those fifteen pages, plus the many more that will be chopped, as a worthwhile exercise in character development.  Now it’s time to move on to the next lesson.

Repeat after me:  Every chapter MUST have action.

Picture me with scissors protruding from my eyes.  For the next several days, I’ll be wearing my ruthless cap and cutting out the CR_ P.

For those of you celebrating holidays this weekend, enjoy.

13 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Get tough with those words!

Jan Morrison said...

having just been through this I am applauding - you'll get hooked on it! I agree with the backstory needing to be written down at first so that WE know it!

E.J. Wesley said...

You're right, we have to get it down on paper to have something to work with later. Sometimes hard to see what needs to go though, so bless those readers! : )

Robin said...

Reading this is excellent right now. I am about to jump BACK into writing a novel after saying to myself NEVER AGAIN and I think I needed to read this.... just because writers get so attached to everything they write. It all feels so PERSONAL. When it shouldn't be. Or it can't be. Instead it is this awesome learning experience. So, bravo for you.

Colette Martin said...

Good for you! Write on!

Carol Kilgore said...

Good for you. It's usually not easy.

Old Kitty said...

Oh I loved my backstories in my first draft of my current wip - but yes - they had to go!! LOL!!

Good luck with your editing! Take care
x

Bish Denham said...

It can be so hard to kill off paragraphs/pages that we've spent hours on. Sigh... But in the end it makes for such a better piece.

mshatch said...

I like to call it slash and burn :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Just remember the action doesn't have to always be physical. Sometimes action is the evolvement of the character from one point of thinking to another. Be careful what you cut. I'd hate for you to lose some of the beautiful interiority of the characters.

jbchicoine said...

Oh Liza, You have no idea how much I sympathize...I had to cut over 50K in one of my novels and I thought it would break my heart (and my spirit). When it comes right down to it, it's a matter of mind set. We do fall in love with our words and cutting might feel almost like a betrayal at first, but once you can wrap your mind around the concept of 'slashing', it can be very freeing. Once you see the benefit to the whole story, you will have grown as a writer.

The most important thing is to not give up! And know that your story is REALLY good!

)And I agree with what Anne said about action and Interiority.)

Ann Best said...

Oh, it isn't easy letting of some beloved passage. But it's great when it fits somewhere else. The whole process is exhausting, as you know, and as I found out as I worked for MONTHS with my editors. But it does sound like you're making great progress, and getting great input. I'm looking forward to reading the finished product!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

Robyn Campbell said...

Deleting my sweet lovely children (words):-) kills me. But it always makes for a better story. I just wish I could write a perfect first draft. *sigh*

I love your ideas about backstory. We are telling ourselves the story. You rock, Liza! Great post!