The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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4:51pm on Saturday, 22nd August, 2015:
I got a lot of feedback when I sent out drafts of my second Lizzie Lott novel for people to read. People seem to like the story and the characters, but the book's pacing is problematical. I concluded that it's far too long and needs tightening up.
I started work on this on and off over the summer, and have had some success on the tightening-up parts. Long descriptive paragraphs have been cut, unnecessary pieces of characterisation have been removed, dialogue has been sharpened; it's been successful enough to take 3,000 words out of the first 5 chapters (which are now only 4 chapters). However, the next chapter, which is where I've reached, is where the pacing problems start.
The particular chapter in question (set in the music hall, if you're one of the book's beta-testers) is one I spent a lot of time on. It has multiple layers of meaning to do with identity, role-playing, even games and the magic circle. I really like what it does. However, there's no real action there and the story itself kind of stalls.
The solution to this adopted by most authors is simply to write more to fix the problem. Cutting the good stuff is known as "killing your darlings", a phrase normally attributed to William Faulkner but probably older. Anyway, you don't want to kill your darlings because you invested so much effort in them, so you add whatever is necessary to make your story work. For example, in my Lizzie Lott book #2 I could have introduced some kind of action-packed incident to emphasise that this is the part of the story where the protaganist realises she's in a different world where she can openly use her powers.
I, however, am not an author by training. I'm a programmer by training. When a programmer sees a problem with some code they've sweated blood over, they try to think of a better way of doing it. If they succeed, they kill that darling dead, without an ounce of remorse, because why would you keep something you know is inferior, no matter how much effort you spent on it?
So, that's one entire chapter and half another I'll be scrapping, for the price of rewriting half the one in between.
Die, darlings, die!
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