Do you have a manuscript that got out of control, has copious amounts of pages, and many chapters and yet it goes nowhere?
|"I know I have an 800 pound gorilla on my back! Got a shovel?"|
This is what I've been doing with an older manuscript of mine for the last six weeks. Some of you might be working on something more recent than mine, which I originally began in 1999, and thought was finished in 2004, but at some point was 800 pages with scenes and characters that I didn't need. I reduced it to 400 pages, and I could still write a whole new book from what I'm taking out!
I've been working on this these past few weeks we've had off--a glorious 2 weeks (no pay), and I've gotten over 72K words down in the new mss.
But how? How do you take a mss. and cut from it things you don't need?
You would ask that question, wouldn't you? It's called "tough love", or Kill Your Darlings--and this means characters, even great chapters you're in love with, and so forth.
Ask yourself: Will anyone miss this if I chuck it? If you can take a chapter, a character or a whole thread out and it isn't missed, then you need to do that, my dears. Take those sections out [put into another file] and then put the thing back together and do a read through. If something is needed you put that something back. But if you can read through and the message/story is still there, then you've done the job! Have a beta reader read it too, someone who hasn't read it yet, to make sure you've done it right. They ask what happened here, or to such and such, then you know you need to add something back, or rewrite it.
Since my mss. (Vampire Legacy/Dhampire Legacy), was something I hadn't seen since before I had the Internet, but I did have typed copies from both a typewriter and a printer from a computer, I took it out and went through it. Although what I had wasn't like the picture above, it was close. I realized that I had many drafts/rewrites. There might be as many as 4 different versions of any one chapter, and I had to separate these versions. I used tables, chairs and a couch, and at one point the floor, to separate the chaff from the wheat--or something like that. I found chapters with people/characters who were not the main ones that carried the story. I had to chuck them.
You have to remember that in order for anyone to care about your story, and how it ends, you have to develop your characters! If you introduce new ones, somewhere late in the game, readers may become confused and slam the book shut, and might never buy your books again.
I realized had a whole other story going (which was why I set it aside and went to other things for a decade). I had scenes that prolonged the whole story, in fact, and I could see--now that my writing has matured--that the actual climax was getting bogged down, pushed back, and the middle part where there is what we call a "lull" was drawing the story into another direction. Can't have that. The plot must keep going toward the climax. The upward movement to the CRISIS has to be there and then you go for the lull, and after the lull you make things even worse for your main characters. (See below-yeah I just drew this so you guys know what I'm talking about! Hey, it's free for the grabbing, be my guest!)
|Lorelei's plot graph|
I knew that portions of it was salvageable. My two main characters are detective (Jan Vladislav), who is from Gypsy stock, and a man (Phil Green) who left his home town for at least three reasons to seek his fortune. They both are, or become, a vampire slayers. These are my two main guys, and one teenage girl--Lucy, the daughter of the detective--who by no real fault of her own, is snagged by the vampires. I have a romance angle, two actually, but the romance between Phil and Collette doesn't bloom right away--but the posibility is there since they once had been engaged, and she is now divorced. Problem for him is that she has come under the master vampire's thrall, and her daughter is taken by another vampire.
The town is terrorized when people go missing, a baby and its babysitter is abducted at the beginning of the story, and eventually the baby is found dead--blood drained from her--in a graveyard next to St. John's Church, which as been burned down prior to the opening of the story, and on the other side is the Lockwood Mansion, which a mysterious wealthy man has bought. I made this harder on my detective, as the baby is his sister-in-law's, and his wife died of lung cancer a year ago. So he's trying to deal with this, and has a real reason to get this murderer.
My work in going through each chapter is still underway, I've got it corralled to two tables--one holds the chapters I'm working from, the other holds future chapters. And one box has my discarded material, and one other place has chapters which I won't use in this, but could be used in some other future project.
In some cases I have to write a scene from scratch, not using any material at all. That's what I had to do yesterday and managed to spit out more than 2,000 words.
So, my dears, do you have a mss. in a bin, or are working on that needs a little help? You need to disassociate yourself from it first, and be brave. Take that editing knife and cut, cut, cut!
Let me know how you're dealing with a wayward manuscript! I would love to hear from you!