In other words, I’ve been in Ruthless Edit mode. Well, honestly, I’ve been in Squeamish Edit mode. I may need to up my dosage to get to Ruthless.
The title of this post comes from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.”
I have this Big Fat Fantasy called SAGE, which I’ve been working on for almost as long as #4 Daughter has been alive. She grew up with it, and she loves every word of it as it stands now. Trouble is, editors and publishers and other readers did NOT grow up with it, and they don’t want to spend the same kind of time with the world and the characters that #4 and I do.
So I’ve saved a “director’s copy” version with all its bits in, and I’m working with an editing copy. So far, I’ve excised the first three entire chapters. And I’m like, “Hmmm…. Starting the book where the story actually starts…. Interesting concept.”
Of course, it’s sometimes difficult to say where a story actually starts. Was it when Joe stepped off the curb in front of that cab, or was it when he had the fight with his kid that distracted him so he took that step? Or was it when the kid was born and Joe’s wife died in childbirth, so Joe has always been negative toward the kid? Or was it when Joe met his wife, the only woman he could ever love? Or was it when Joe woke up in the alien spaceship after he felt the impact of the cab hitting him?
I can’t locate the quote about “start your story at the last possible moment” — if anybody knows, please leave the info in the comments section. It’s great advice, though — better for a short story than a novel, obviously, except for a given value of “last possible”. I love all the stuff I had before the point at which I now think the story should begin, but I think the moment I’ve chosen is the best.
SEKRIT MESSIDGE TO #4: I’m starting with Karol stumbling through the woods after the Swords have killed Cameron. The chapter where she takes refuge with Moder Zglaria. The chapter where she gives birth to Cameron’s baby, then leaves it at the baby farm and goes looking for Kinnan to raise a revolution.
Good choice? Time. Will. Tell.
WRITING PROMPT: If you have a story that isn’t selling, try taking some off the top. Eliminate ALL the set-up and begin in the middle of the first action. Just try it, just to see how it works.