Change is essential, even when you hate it. This week has been about embracing the change that needs to happen and jumping off the editing cliff, knowing that it will be for the better while trying to convince myself that it’s true. This week has been about finding and isolating the purpose in my work, letting go of things that don’t serve the plot and make things harder for the reader, and the reality that it is hard to do that. It hasn’t been easy, but worthwhile things rarely are.
Last week, I went through my newly completed outline and wrote out the narrative purpose of each chapter. Through this process, I learned that some chapters didn’t have a specific purpose. They were made up of scenes placed in chronological order, that didn’t necessarily offer anything unique to the story, or that offered too much. Other chapters were full of too many important events that were essential to the story, but when concentrated to such a degree, lacked an overall cohesion necessary in storytelling.
Recognizing chapters as disorganized and scenes as dead weight, I was able to re-plan the structure of my book. Initially, with the first four chapters, I started slow, introducing characters and their interactions, establishing setting and context, and setting up a conflict that didn’t pay off. The hook I was using was small and ultimately dismissed, and the story would benefit from a faster pace, so I rewrote the first chapter of the book to include the major plot points of all four. As someone who needs to shorten my novel considerably, it was satisfying, if a bit disheartening to realize how much of my work was hurting the project rather than helping.
Cutting out the majority of those chapters opened up a floodgate, and I was able to see things that would need to go in future. A scene where the girls play laser-tag, though tense, fun and engaging, bears no relevance to the overall story. It’s a device to have the characters interact in an unnatural setting and takes more from the narrative than it offers. I, personally really like this scene, and it’s hard to swallow that next week I’ll have to write it out, but the glimpses into the characters that it offers don’t justify the amount of room it takes in the book. It’s a fun scene and does offer characterisation, even insights into the themes, but there are other ways to incorporate them that would flow better in the story.
Change is never simple, and never easy. Acknowledging that much of what I wrote won’t see the end of the project is testing. I know I am making my work better, and through this experience, I have found the confidence to proceed in leaps and bounds, rather than poking along, removing a sentence here or there, but that progress doesn’t remove the pain. But pain, if you get through it, tends to be a marker of better things to come. At least it’s a sign of things we’ve already overcome. There is more to do, but I face it boldly, as all writers must.
Thank you for your companionship and your support along the way.
Project Status: The rewrites have begun in earnest.
3 thoughts on “Purpose, Pain and Progress”
Thanks for this post Katie. I too am in the editing process of cutting-slicing and chopping. The thing I notice, if I my mind is elsewhere-there goes the plot line also. Seeing as there’s always a band (euphemism) playing in my head I somehow manage to cut the chaffe and tell a better story with heart, that’s believable to my audience
It is amazing to see how you are growing through writing this book. There is so much involved and each step is making you a better author with a greater perspective on what’s necessary to create something your audience will understand and enable them learn new things about the subject matter. This is your first attempt at writing a book and is a huge stepping stone in developing your own style and personality. Good for you Katie.
Wow! What a difference! You have analyzed your writing and done it well. Your statement that “pain is a marker of better
things to come” is a difficult assumption without an example. How is it a marker? Try not to assume that others know what you mean, and at the same time, try not to say too much, writing down to them, e.g. “poking along… – your readers will know already how a writer “pokes along”. (mini-editing). I can see that you are more aware of how well it works to take the plunge
and cut things, even small ones, e.g. I personally. I is personal, so just I ….works better. (I’ve just done 3 total rewrites on
a speech, but still am not happy with it.) Writers are cut from the same cloth! You’re moving right along, Katie. Bravo!
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