Time to re-attack the manuscript, armed with a shiny new outline and a compressed timeframe. The goal this go-around is to heighten the danger and sense of threat that the characters are in and to give the plot more driving energy. To that end, I’m changing the end goal a bit to something more… obvious? I’m not sure that’s the right way to put it, but it’s a simpler mark to hit. Less esoteric. Less ambiguous. And doing that is allowing me to streamline the challenges the characters will face along the way.
The first thing I’ve done is just to hack out the chapters that are quite clearly not going to survive into the next incarnation of the manuscript. Most of these are things rendered irrelevant or redundant by the changes I’ve made to the outline, or because I’ve compressed the timeframe from about 16 months into about 6.
Starting Word Count: 139,808 (admittedly on the chunky side, though not truly egregious considering the genre)
Word Count after the Cut: 110,065
Nearly 30k gone in a mere half an hour’s work! There will be more to cut out, of course — this was just the blunt amputation of entire chapters. Next I’ll be going in with a scalpel to trim out partial chapters and smaller moments that won’t work now and to adjust all the continuity issues. But, there will also be quite a bit of new material to add in. So we’ll see where the new draft ends up, numbers-wise. If it’s a bit more slender than the last draft, that certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing.
I am going to have to have a few of what Connor and I are calling “Come to Proserpina” moments about some bits of the plot and some scenes that I really love. During the amputation process, I definitely saw smaller things that’re going to have to go. I just have to remember — taking it out of this draft doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. If I have to get rid of a conversation I really love, I can still find a way to put in something elsewhere that gets at the same emotions and the same connections between characters. If I have to kill off a set piece that’s fun but not really plot-advancing, maybe I can bring it back in another books. I’ve never liked the phrase “kill your darlings” — that’s always seemed rather melodramatic and self-important, and though I know we writers, as a breed, are prone to such things (myself not least among them — I’m an actress, too, after all), it’s never just seemed accurate. It’s not killing them. It’s more like putting toys back on the shelf that I don’t need right now — but they’ll be there, waiting for me, later, to be used or re-shaped or re-imagined.
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