One of the first things any book, web site or expert will tell a would-be author is that editing must be ruthless, and the author must be willing to slash her own work. I'm a fairly decent self-editor, and I correct both as I go along and at the end of each chapter. When I submit pieces for critique with my writing group, I get another set of eyes to check for typos, misspellings and grammatical mistakes.
But beyond that kind of editing, it's imperative that an author is willing to cut out unnecessary sentences, paragraphs and even. . .gulp. . . chapters.
It's harder than the uninitiated might think. For me, each word that I wrote is considered and completely necessary. How could I think of chopping anything out?
After about six months of submitting, I decided to revisit some of my early chapters. There was a very good reason for how those chapters are constructed, and I hated to get rid of any of them. But. . .ruthless, right? So I cut out one chapter altogether and combined another two. I was pretty happy with it.
But it's been another six months plus, and lately I've been thinking that it's time to get the (metaphorical) scissors again. Here's my reasoning: many agents request the first fifty pages along with a query letter, or if the query or summary interests them, they'll ask for the partial--again, about the first fifty pages. So those fifty pages carry a pretty large responsibility: they have to basically sell the entire book.
I like my opening chapters. In them, the reader gets to know my main character and narrator. There's a lot of backstory. However, are they essential? Could they be cut even more/
I've decided the answer is yes, and that's my project for this week: to re-write the first chapters of Fearless. I'm actually pretty excited about it. With any luck, it will not only be more cohesive but also will cut down the all-important word count significantly.
I'll report back soon and let you all know how it comes together!