Buffy and I have scrapped pretty much all of our written chapters for our second novel in our trilogy, Children of the Storm, again. At one point she remarked, “This is what – our third time?” The outline fared no better under our scrutiny, but it doesn’t quite have the same impact to cut a scene that’s only there in theory than it does cutting one you spent so long on.
Welcome to the world of writing. It only gets more painful from here.
Sure, on the long road from writing to publishing there’s no doubt that we both have become significantly better writers. Heck, I’d be willing to bet money that our skills will continue to improve as we seek an agent and a publisher. But if there’s one thing I’ve come to believe, it’s that if you really love your novel you have to be willing to edit the crap out of it. After all, what’s the point of getting your beloved work out there if it isn’t your best?
During the publishing process, I have lost count of the number of edits our chapters have seen (to give an idea, there are 20 edits of chapter 1 of the first novel on my laptop, which is maybe 1/3 of the total number sitting on my desktop). Right now we’re in our second complete overhaul of the first book. And I do mean complete. Last time we added a prologue and tightened up the prose. This time we’ve changed the narrative voice, re-written a few scenes, and cut superfluous parts. That means meticulous back and forth editing of what was an 186,110-word novel. Sounds like fun, eh?
So, back to tonight. We were sitting with the document open (we do our best outlining in person) and going, “Do we need this scene? What’s the point of that scene? That’s boring, cut it.” The second half of the outline survived mostly intact, although that’s because the majority of the scenes are relatively new. The first half… nothing that survived the previous massacre escaped unscathed this time. We kept, maybe, six scenes total from chapters 1 through 7. Of course that chapter 7 is now chapter 4, I believe, though that may change again.
All this is a pain in the ass, but it’s worth it. Even if our trilogy never sees the light of day (which it damn well better after all this!), it is still worth it. Seeing our novel grow into a better, tighter, and more interesting piece of fiction is an experience in itself. Knowing that our sequel will blossom in much the same way makes all the false starts and dead ends easier to bear.
In writing, sometimes killing your scenes really is the best way to be kind.