Omit Needless… Chapters!?

We are eight days into the month of November, and I have done 15.5 hours of revision. This is 2.167 more hours than the requisite, if I am following a plan of doing 1.67 hours per day. I am trying to rack up extra now, knowing that I may need to skip a day or two around Thanksgiving, and I don’t want to be in a stressful crunch at the end of the month trying to make up hours.

I am following several famous pieces of advice. From the writer’s bible The Elements of Style, “Omit needless words.” Brilliance! Show don’t tell at its most succinct. I have been omitting needless words. Paragraphs. Pages. Yes, I have been omitting needless whole chapters.

My first step was to get rid of the first 50 or so pages. At my draft 3 critique, I asked my readers what they thought of my mentor’s suggestion to delete the first few chapters. General agreement ensued. Not everything, my readers said, but definitely a trim. One person’s favorite scene took place in the original chapter one. But I looked at the repetition, at what was necessary, at what would serve my story – and I went ahead and chopped, chopped, chopped.

Thus the second piece of highly-touted advice, this from William Faulkner: “Kill your darlings.” Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch spoke the original phrase “murder your darlings” when he said, “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.”

So here I am, killing them one by one. It is hard – nearly painful. All the work and time that went into 50 pages of writing! I rewrote that original first chapter at least 20 times. But, it’s part of the job description.


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