When the First 50 Pages Is Actually 80 Pages…   Leave a comment

Vintage Typist

So now that I put my first book to bed (for now), it’s time to begin writing the second! I’ve come charging out at the gate, full of zip and zing, just itching to get those words out of my brain and onto a screen. After all, the characters have been banging around, demanding to take on some form and function, ready to put that plot to action.

And off I went, typing my little heart out. I came up with a fast outline, about twenty pages or so, then reduced them to about three, then one. Why? So I’d have a synopsis ready. My agent will need it, plus it helps to have it to hand when coming up with that all-important pitch.

I have a wide-screen display, so part of it showed my outline (to keep track of things) and the other was the book. Pretty soon, I ignored what I had up there for an outline and just kept going.

See, I wanted to write those first 50 pages that editors always seem to ask for when perusing a book submission. Checking it out to see if it’s any good. If it’s what they want. Can they sell it? Can you write? It’s got to be perfect, a real page-turner, else it’ll wind up in the slush pile and the permanent death bin. Can’t have that, now, can we?

So write I did, until I have my main three characters all set up nicely and it became pretty obvious they’d have work cut out for them to resolve their issues.

As it seems, so did I.

I wrote eighty pages. I only needed fifty.

My characters looked askance. One of them complained he had glue in his feet. Another thought she’d been kind of inactive for two long. And the other? Kind of went on and on about something or another without actually coming to a point.

Time to chuck out the garbage!

First, I read the whole thing without changing a word. The story line made perfect sense, but it could be better. I examined each paragraph, all the dialogue, even punctuation. Took my time and shelved a few ideas. I liked them, but those ideas gave too much of the plot away, so I made a file called, “For later.” I go back to that file if I need an idea, use a quote, even a suggestion. Often I ditch much of what’s in there, but if you come up with a good quote and it doesn’t fit right in its original spot, it might be useful later. Or you can admire it over and over and congratulate yourself for being clever and use it in witty conversation at one of those glamorous cocktail parties you’re going to be invited to when your book is published. Believe it or not, I got rid of 10 pages this way.

Next, I went over those really long paragraphs and the very short two-liners to see if I couldn’t condense them. I actually trimmed quite a bit this way.

Finally, I went over each and every sentence. That’s tough. I found myself reading sentences over and over, unable to shorten or reword them. It’s going to work out that I’m going to need some of those longer sentences, but I can make them shorter by finding better ways to contain the information they’re trying to convey. After all, brevity is the soul of wit, and you can keep a reader far more interested if you get right to it.

I’m not quite at 50 pages yet, but I’m nearly there. I’ve hacked and pruned my way to 59 pages, which isn’t too bad. My story’s exposition reads a whole lot better and I’m feeling good about it. I’m still in first draft mode, but with those solid first 50 pages, I’m ready to tackle the rest of the book…all three thousand pages of it…

Just kidding!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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