Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Nathan Bransford writes that what ends up in a finished novel “should represent a mere fraction of your ideas.”
As the painting atop this post alludes, a novel should be a tip of the iceberg above a much larger base. That base is everything you know about your characters' back stories, the history of your setting and your characters' forefathers, the technology, the government, etc. etc. etc. Chances are only a fraction of this knowledge will ever come into play, because the key to exposition is to only tell the reader what they actually need to know to understand the events of the novel.
As I home in on finishing the seventh edit of Doleful Creatures, I begin to see the wisdom in his words.
And I also begin to see how revision helps the ideas flow.
At first, Doleful Creatures was going to be a twee little tale of how animals living on and near a bankrupt farm save the farm from foreclosure.
But I got distracted as new ideas came in. Let’s say the book’s evolved since then, which you’d know if you’ve read my latest attempt at a query letter.
I have killed a lot of darlings writing this novel. But I have also brought in new darlings to replace them. And, inexplicably, I might have figured out how to get a second novel out of the first, if the first ends up going anywhere.
At the end of Rev. 6, as I have already noted, I’d cut the novel by 12,000 words. I’ve since cut about 4,000 more, but have managed to add another 17,000, and I’m not done with the story yet. This gives me cause to celebrate and yet cause for concern: I do still have a wonderful story here, but it’s going to require another editing for consistency, and for at least one more character augmentation.