I have written many times about the struggles of getting caught in a rut. I have battled that frustration for years. I am proud of the fact that I have overcome it, though at times it takes far longer than I would like it to. Today, however, I am not focusing on the ability to get off my butt and get something done. I am thinking more about moving forward in a story.
Have you ever picked up a book and become fully engrossed in the story? You continue reading but eventually come across a scene or chapter that seems to slow down the narrative. Maybe it is a chapter that does not seem to lead into the next part of the book. It could be an internal monologue that is so drawn out you lost interest. Perhaps it was a scene so deeply described it made you forget what was happening in he rest of the story. I have read books that have all of these scenes and chapters in them. I am sure I have written books with them all as well.
I spoke with an acquisitions editor recently about the opening pages of my thriller Voices In My Head. As soon as I sat down at the table with him he asked me about the premise of the book. I explained what it was about watching as he leaned back in his chair. He crossed his arms over his chest and stared off into the distance, clearly thinking about something. Finally he sat forward again, placed his elbows on the table and told me directly how interesting the concept sounded. The only problem, he said, was that reading those first ten pages gave him no hint of what I had just mentioned. I needed to get to the story sooner.
He also brought up a scene he had read. He asked about the drama and suspense I had created saying he had been intrigued until he saw who was behind the scenes. He felt I had put the scene in to show I could build suspense, he was completely right. The problem was, it didn't go anywhere. There was no reason for that scene other than a quick "I wonder..." moment and when I looked at it again I realized I could cut the scene entirely without changing the story a bit.
Just today I was reading some advice on a writer's site on Facebook and that popped up again. If you can remove a character, scene, chapter or dialogue exchange without it changing the story, you should cut it. Everything in your book should have a reason for being. that reason should never be just to have enough words. Make the words you choose work as hard as you are so they earn their place in the book. I am working to keep this in mind as I go through the editing on Breathe then move on to Voices and Sharing Strength.