Hacking and Cutting

A couple of events conspired recently to turn into an important revelation.

The first event was getting the feedback from my beta readers. One told me a certain chapter stopped her cold and it took her a couple weeks to pick the manuscript up again. Uh-oh! Another told me she struggled through the same chapter. Double uh-oh!

Then, about two weeks ago, as I was reading through a chapter of a novel by a member of my writers’ group, I experienced a similar problem. Half-way through I just had to put it down. Uh-oh again! As I thought about why that was, I realized that while his chapter was well written in many ways, its major flaw was how much backstory it contained.

That’s when the 25 Watt light bulb over my head began to flicker.

My problematic chapter had a similar problem: too much backstory in the process of introducing a bunch of new characters. Which, interestingly enough, my professional editor didn’t catch or see as a problem. Hmmm. Who’s right? After all, the other two beta readers didn’t have a problem with that chapter either.

What to do? What to do?

Experiment: that’s what to do! I’ve created a fresh draft—number 6K for those of you keeping score at home—in which I’m chopping out most of that chapter and transferring only the key elements to other places in the text. Then I’ll compare and contrast.

The version that works better will be the one that goes to my copy editor.

…And the beat goes on.


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