One of the weirdest things I discovered early in my career was that a story I’ve been writing on a screen not only looks completely different on the page, it reads completely different on the page.
That’s why a paper edit is crucial. Continue reading
Chapters are useless. They’re arbitrary divisions in a story that serve no purpose except to give readers a chance to put down the book and never come back. Unlike acts, scene sequences, scenes, beats, and all the other narrative units, chapters actually work against structure and meaning: you have to bend the book to make them work.
But they’re standard, so they stay. And I’m about to print out the first act which means I have to figure out where the chapter headings go so I put in transitions between the @#$%^&* chapters I don’t want in there anyway. Continue reading
I’m working on the assumption here that somebody out there is interested in this wonky stuff. If you’re not, feel free to skip. There’s math in this post.
So the Breakfast Scene at the end of the second mini-act was 3,524 words, and it needed to be a lot less. I don’t like scenes that are over 2500, even transition scenes like this one, so that was my upper limit. I ended up at 2560, so pretty good but still more cuts to come on the paper edit. Here’s how I did it.
Discovery drafts almost always run long. That’s because they’re writer-based drafts, not intended for readers or publication, they’re just the writer getting it all down on paper or screen. You’re supposed to write long on a discovery draft; it’s the writing equivalent of taking the back roads so that you see a lot of stuff. Yes, you’ll get there faster if you take the freeway, but all you’ll see is freeway.
But once you’ve explored, the next time you take the trip, you go for fast-paced and focused: You take the truck draft out on the highway. You cut like crazy. Continue reading
No, not me, I’m pretty chipper here, getting plenty of sleep, beautiful day, everything’s fine.
I’m talking about exhausting my text by rewriting. Continue reading
So I’ve been cutting the hell out of the breakfast scene, and it’s no longer 4400 words. Now it’s 3400. Which means I need to go back in there and hack some more, at least another 600 words, plus I need to add a couple of sentences from the lunch scene. So it’s gonna be awhile. In the meantime, there’s an Easter Egg in the drafts you’ve read so far. In all honesty, I don’t expect anybody to get it because the reference is to a book I published more than a decade ago and it’s really, really obscure. On the other hand, you like puzzles. So there’s a single word in the stuff you’ve read so far that ties this book to some of my other stories.
If nobody gets it by tomorrow night this time, I’ll tell you what the word is. And it’ll still be obscure. When I plant an Easter Egg, I plant it deep.
Yeah, it’s too obscure. I’ll give you the word:
First, thank you all very much for the feedback.
Second, I agree with almost everything. Here’s a discussion of the comments as of midnight last night:
So I’m not a fan of scenes that run on too long. I’m not a stickler about it, but in the first act, I try to keep my scenes under 3000 words, 2500 even better, and then in the last three acts never top 2500, in the last act even shorter. I’ve been rewriting the breakfast scene which has to do a lot of heavy lifting, and I like it. But it’s 4400 words. That’s ridiculous. It must be cut.
I am still in the darling stage with it. I want EVERY DAMN WORD. But at least a thousand words have to go. Your job, should you choose to accept it, it to tell me where it lags, where it’s confusing, where you’d cut it. Feel free to be brutal. As always, I won’t respond for twenty-four hours–YOU WANT ME TO CUT THAT??????–because I need to detach for distance, but all feedback is more than welcome.
Yes, I know I keep exploiting you. But you keep coming back. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Scene is here.
The first time I wrote Button’s scene, I wrote it in Nita’s PoV. But Button has a big role to play in this book, and I need her PoV, plus Nita’s PoV was just more drunk Nita learning things. The second time I wrote Button’s scene, I wrote it in her PoV, but it was a just-get-it-down-on-paper version. That’s the one some of you read. This is the third rewrite of Button’s scene, trying to add some layers to her characterization. It’s not gonna be the last rewrite, either. There’s a lot more to Button that I already know about and I’m going to learn a lot more as I move through the book. This is why I always laugh when somebody asks seriously, “How many drafts do you do?” “Oh, two, three thousand . . .” * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Continue reading