Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Writing to Remove

I've now written about fifty pages of the first draft of THE WARLORD'S BRIDE. I've already thrown out a seven page scene, and I suspect by the time I'm finished the final draft of this novel, I'll have thrown out at least 25 pages of the original 100. Does that make me upset?

Nope. I accept this is the way I work, and that I'll have replaced those "old" pages with something better, in terms of character, plot and pacing.

How do I know they'll be better? Well, I guess I really don't. I assume they will be because by the time I get to the last draft, I'll know my characters very well, and I'll have a solid handle on what exactly is going to happen in the story. I'll have made all the tough decisions, and will have a better idea of the overall plot, characters and pace. In the beginning, I'm still learning and noodling around. I think of early drafts as circling the target, getting closer to the bulls-eye. Very rarely do I hit the bulls-eye first time out, and I don't expect to.

I work this way because I really like writing dialogue (i.e. am too impatient to write much without dialogue), so I don't do a lot of outlining. I start writing the book, which means I put a lot of what some folks would do in the outlining/pre-writing part into the first few chapters. Then I either have to take it out, or move it to later in the story.

For instance, that first scene of seven pages I cut? I've just realized I might be able to use a good portion of it now, in Chapter Four. I think it would work better there because the readers will know the hero better and it can introduce a new complication after a certain conflict seems to have been resolved. This is why I never completely delete material, but move it to a "cut" or "dump" file.

This is also why I don't panic if I have to cut material at any point in the proceedings. To paraphrase the Bionic Man, I can rebuild it. And it will likely be better, stronger, faster than before.

Later that day: I've decided that scene won't work here, either, although the incident will remain. In other words, what happened in the deleted scene will still happen, but it will now happen "off stage." Why? Because I think if I go to that scene, I'm going to throw off the pace -- like a sharp turn in the road where there shouldn't be one. Also, not "going with" the hero but staying in the heroine's POV means more dramatic tension. The heroine hears what's happened and realizes that there's More To It Than Meets The Eye, but she doesn't know the backstory, who the Bad Guy is or his relationship to the hero. She just knows this bad thing happened and the hero's enemy is apparently behind it, but that's it until the hero returns. When will that be? When he does come back, should she ask him about it? Will he volunteer an explanation? Before or after they're supposed to wed?

There's another layer to this anxious waiting, though -- one that has to do with the heroine's history. Having been deceived in the past, the heroine believes she can't really trust her own judgment when it comes to men. The hero started off pretty grim and grave and a little scary, then he lightened up and turned into quite the attractive fellow, but now he's grim and stern and fiercely angry, so again, a little scary. Which is he most of the time? Because if he's really Mr. Scary and Mr. Attractive was just an act, she won't marry him, regardless of the political consequences. Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it. So now she not only has to try to find out what's going on and who the enemy is, but if the hero's just grim and stern and kinda scary when he's in Leadership Mode, or if he's got a mean streak.

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