Sunday, July 16, 2006

The question of the day is to cut or not to cut.

When I began to write my WIP it was the first of three novellas. This book was actually the last to be written. It was an after thought to the other three. Therefore, when I wrote it, I had the plots and characters of the other three books in mind. In essence, I wrote it in support of my other works, to explain the events in the other works. However, after reading several books on the subject and as I developed the plot and got deeper into the characters' motivation in book one, it became apparent that my initial approach to writing it was completely wrong. I had to get the other books out of my head and focus on this plot only.

The three novellas will be expanded into novel length works--eventually, and although they will be a series of four detective mysteries, each must be a stand alone. Meaning, the reader shouldn't have to read the previous books to understand the characters, their motivation, and the events in later books.

I've talked with several authors who have series. I cringed when I heard one of them say that their readers would understand why a charter behaved in a certain manner in book two because it was explained in book one. Hello? That's a huge assumption, friends. Who's to say your reader will start with book one? What if the cover of book three is more appealing and they start there? Do you really want to risk frustrating your readers? What am I saying? Book two won't get to the shelves of your friendly neighborhood book shop if it's written like that!

The first in the series needs show the beginning, the development of the characters, their relationships, etc. It's the foundation for everything that comes later. Those elements have to be reintroduced in each book. I'm not talking about an in-depth account that will bore your reader to death, just enough to give the reader an understanding. The perfect scenario is that after finishing book three, the reader will rush out and buy one and two!

But to get back to the "to cut or not to cut" bit. I have two chapters that I really like, lots of tension in both, unfortunately they have nothing to do with the plot. They do, however, add personal conflict for the protag. Is this enough? Recently I read a writing tip from a well-known author that goes something like this: Think about the purpose of the scene. Is there anything in the previous chapters that sets this scene up? Will this scene set up subsequent scenes? Roll it around in your head and only after you have figured out how the scene will advance the plot, sit down and write it.

Last year, I read a book that to this day, I cannot figure out why the first chapter, a flash back, was left in. The characters in that chapter, other than the detectives, never materialized again and had no connection to the plot. That annoyed the heck out of me. Well, I'm afraid this might be the case with my two chapters if I leave them in. Nothing wrong with them, fairly well-written, but worthless. I cut one completely out. The other I decided to leave in, edit the heck out of it, force my protag to learn something from the experience that will help advance the plot, and possibly move the chapter to another spot later in the book. Time will tell if the edit will work.

By the way, no chapter, paragraph, scene, or great line is every really deleted. I cut and paste them onto another document and save them for a rainy day. You never know when those words will come in handy. I might be able to use them in my WIP or possibly one of the other books. I did just that a few months. After I read Todd A. Stone's definition of a window character, I decided that chapter was absolutely perfect as a way to set up the window character for my protag. I tweaked it a bit but didn't have to spend hours developing it.


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tjstephens said...
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