Re-assessing The Value

A while ago I read something that really stuck with me. I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it so I’m paraphrasing instead of quoting. It was in regards to Literary agent rejections. It went something like this;

“But you didn’t even read the whole thing. You only read the first 50 pages. It’ gets really good in chapter eight.”
The advice: “Then start the book in chapter five.”

As a writer I know how difficult it is to hear that maybe, just maybe some fat needs to be trimmed. For months now this advice has been rattling around in my brain as I worked on other projects. So I asked a couple of people who’ve read my book and I was surprised to hear that the first chapter was awesome, but it got slow until about chapter…. wait for it… chapter five. Huh.

I thought I was done, that it was perfect.(Well I know there is always room for improvement)

Now I’m not about to axe it all. Because there is some character building and significant foreshadowing going on in chapters 2 through 5. But. And that is a big huge ‘But’, what if I can trim it down? I started thinking and pondering the “What if I did?” and “Can I?” and most importantly “How?”

The answer to the can I is yes. Why not? The how is easy, just give it a try. So I took a copy of my book and saved it as “Rewrite”. I pulled out my proverbial axe and really started to question what was filler and what was necessary.

Another quote/advice I got (I can’t supply the source for) said; “Make each word count.”  I know I’m wordy, and I work to keep myself in check.

I decided to set my ego aside and take a good strong objective look at the content of each sentence, the necessity of each paragraph. But guess what I found? Filler. Lots of it. Not only filler, but I found repetition. I was saying the same thing over only differently to hammer home a concept/idea/description. I pursed my lips and re-read it. Did I really? Yes I did.

Now this is a big step for me. Something I thought I already conquered. I opened my mind to the possibility that less is more and started re-thinking things. What is necessary to the story and what is not? I was surprised to realize that with one or two small changes, the story would become more streamline. More pleasant to read. Now, I have gotten rave reviews from those that previewed it and I’m not taking anything important away nor the charm of the story. I know what they liked about it and that will stay.

As I work through it all, I’ve taken out my handy-dandy calendar of events and my charts and bio’s of the characters and started changing things. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I was able to take out a lot by changing a little and I did not compromise the story at all.

I talked it over with someone who read the story and he gave me his summary. What he skipped I examined closely. Then after thinking about it I asked what he thought if I removed a few aspects and he said; “That part was good but hard to read, so yeah it would be better without.” At this point I was ready for the criticism and instead of feeling bad or like a failure, I realized there was opportunity to improve.

In two days I took out over 6700 words. If you know my word-count struggle, this is epic. The best advice I got was, if you can keep the word-count closer to the minimum vs. the maximum allowable word count for a genre, then a Literary Agent is more likely to look at it.

I’m not second guessing my work or myself. What I’m doing, after months of contemplation, advice and feedback, is re-assessing the value of the ‘boring parts’ or the filler and repetitious clutter.

This was my first of many books written. I’d be a fool to think it’s perfect, but it will be. I’ve had a lot of time to hone my skills and learn a lot more about writing since completing BiaAtlas. I’m excited to say it’s starting to look better, the story is moving faster and there is less unnecessary filler clogging up the works.  It can be daunting to write a story, let alone rewrite it completely. I’m approaching this logically, whit a plan and a level of excitement that is pushing me forward. I’m amazed at how fun it is to take something I worked hard on and give it a literary make over.

My advice about starting where it gets good.
Don’t shun the idea, don’t stress about cutting things out. Take the time to rearrange and try a new approach. If you don’t like it you still have the original. 

-Sheryl

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Maze

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16 thoughts on “Re-assessing The Value

  1. Nice post and very relevant. I am wordy too and sometimes it takes a few rounds of reading until I realize I have plenty of fat to trim. Then there is the struggle with self but because it makes sense to me doesn’t mean it will read well. I’m learning slowly by reading how other good writers like you do it and paying closer attention to form in the books I read. I’ve always been a storyteller but more of a short story person. Right now I’m just having fun but someday I’d love to get these published. Could I ask you a favor? Could you critique my latest short story. I would appreciate the pointers. Here is a link – https://apennyformythoughtsweb.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/queen-b/. Much thanks and please continue to post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “the story is moving faster and there is less unnecessary filler clogging up the works. It can be daunting to write a story, let alone rewrite it completely.” Too wordy is my problem…wanting the reader to appreciate the prose within the tale…great advice

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  3. OMG ! Number one, I’m exceedingly proud of you – it takes real “guts” to be objective about your work since it’s part of you! and re-assess it and to take honest criticism at face value and not take it personally. After all, this is your “baby”. That’s how I feel about my writing. There’s one person who can cut me like a knife when they criticize my work (one because they haven never written a thing in their life – ok, they’ve recently read a lot but only recently) and the first time I found it devastating and painful. Number two, I’ve also found it fun to re-write and challenge myself to make changes, changes that count at least. As I mentioned, Critical Error had come to a stand still and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. A follower said “your characters are talking to you, listen” they want to go another direction perhaps. I thought about this for days and dang if she wasn’t correct. I let the story flow and bang it was moving again. I’ve got to get back to the story as I’ve been sick and busy and and haven’t had a moment in time to actually work on Critical Error, so hopefully today’s the day. I so enjoy your blog, Sheryl, it’s vital, it’s on point, it’s on target and your honest vulnerable and sincere. What’s not to love?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh good point. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to absorb an idea/criticism and apply. I’ve had moments in a story that I just can’t get right. I sit on it and mull and mull until it suddenly comes into focus.

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      1. Isn’t it awesome when it does? I’m at another crossroads in mine I know they are good and motivate you but still, its annoying to come to a complete standstill. Especially when you want the story to keep going. Sometimes I think it’s because there are simply too many possibilities in your mind. They all work, and it’s a matter of choosing the right one for the direction your going in haha or not!

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        1. I’m in the same spot now with my newest story. I know where I want it to go, just the options to get it there (The end) is hanging me up. I’ve decided to write one way and then maybe another and see which flows better. I can feel the words there I just can’t decide which to use.

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  4. It’s hard to know where to start a story, because as the author, we think readers need this, that, and the other to understand the motivations of our characters. But if we really pay attention to the feedback we get, a lot of the time we can figure out what parts are slowing down the readers and losing them, and which are necessary and make the reader keep turning pages. Less is more, right? Thanks for an insightful post!

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      1. Absolutely, Sheryl. As soon as we learn to take feedback in the spirit of creating a better story (instead of as fodder for hurt feelings), we grow in leaps and bounds in our writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I am convinced I removed a bit too much. I ended up self-publishing 8 months ago and I’m completely good with the decision as I wanted to move past the first book but I do regret listing to others when it comes to the story I needed to tell.

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