“Kill your darlings…” That’s what I’ve been struggling with all weekend. In fact, I went to the woodshed yesterday and today with that thought in mind. It was extremely hard, psyching myself up to do it. But that’s for another post.
What I want to talk about today is more the need for the chopping rather than the chopping itself. There are two scenes in particular that I’ve fallen in love with — probably not coincidentally, the two scenes I’ve put the most work into — that I think might need to go.
When I say “I think”, I’m not being facetious or euphemistic — I really don’t know for sure. At a glance, they are “filler” scenes, which of course should be retired early and often. But they both do move the story forward AND give us a glimpse at characterization.
If word count wasn’t a problem, I wouldn’t even worry about it. But it is a problem. I’m at 25,000 words after chopping some, but I’m not yet finished Part 1, which I’d originally slotted in at 20,000 words…
So the question is, are these two scenes worth the word count?
I’ve split the draft into two versions, Draft 2b being the one where I chop out as much as possible. That process is still in the works — the scene I’m working on now is still over 3,500 words, and has to be chopped substantially.
But the two scenes I was going to chop altogether, well, I decided they were worth at least some word count. So I’ve tightened them up — one in particular to the point where only the beginning and end of the scene now exist.
How does a novelist ever know what needs to stay, and what can be cut? I’ve never really had this problem before. Not to this extent anyway, and not for a long while. If I’m writing an article and my word count is 600 words, I usually have no problems fitting in everything I need to say in that space. (If it’s 300 words, I have more problems, but not overwhelming problems…)
Here though, I’m baffled. I’m sure it’s because this piece of work is so much bigger. A 600-word article, I can fit in my brain nicely and see the arc from start to finish so I know what fits and what doesn’t. A 100,000-word novel — doesn’t fit quite so nicely!
Even looking at my outline, it’s difficult to see whether it needs to be cut or not. The scene count is actually bang on. It’s the word count that’s too long. Shorter scenes, perhaps? That’s the obvious answer. But I’ve tightened them all up (except this last one I’m working on) to the point where I think they’re the perfect length for what they need to accomplish.
So I guess I’ll work along this Draft 2b for a while, and see where it goes. I run the risk of trying to meld two separate drafts together in the future, taking this secondary path. But it’s the only path forward I can see right now. Hey, it’s all a learning process, right?
In other news: Terry Fallis has been shortlisted for a second Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for The High Road, the sequel to The Best Laid Plans. Usually, you wouldn’t expect that a past winner would have a chance, but I took a peek and saw that repeats, even a couple of years apart, are not unheard of. This year’s winner will be announced on April 28. Sending out good luck vibes for Terry on this one…
(Side note: was pleasantly surprised to see that Lakehead University, my alma mater, is one of the sponsors of the Medal…)
No sign of the Vertical hardcover yet. I emailed the publisher and haven’t heard back, so I’m assuming the publication date for that has been pushed back again.