It’s a funny thing. In my life as a commercial writer and editor, I’m known for brevity. I’ve even been called the slash and burn queen, wielding a red pen (or the electronic equivalent) in place of a weed cutter and a blow torch.
My all-time great slash and burn moment was replacing a 159 word sentence in a set of terms and conditions with six words that meant the same thing.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that my fiction writing self takes a very different approach.
The other day, my sister – who is up to chapter 28 of Farewell to Kindness (I’m still writing chapter 29) asked if I was getting a bit overcomplicated. “All those subplots,” she said. “And now Hannah’s husband has reappeared.” She assured me that she likes it, and she wants to know what happens next. My new critique partner (thanks Romance Writers of Australia) is only up to chapter 4, but has also commented on people that she thinks might be surplus to requirements – although one of her favourite characters probably won’t make the final cut, since she never appears in the book again.
This is, of course, a first draft. I told my sister that I need to get the whole story out of my head before I know what to cut and what to leave. And some of it will have to go; I can already see some places where scenes don’t progress the action.
But losing characters and plot lines? I’m still thinking about that one. Personally, I like long complicated books, where all sorts of things are going on, and the author only ties it up with a neat bow in the last chapter. But do other people? I’ve been reading a few online discussions, and the jury is still out.
What do you think?