In the middle of May, I was about 28,000 words into the Italian Chase Novel and wondering about whether or not I needed to Cut to the Chase. Were things moving too slowly? Was I adding in too much description? Two weeks later, my agent gave me an answer after she looked at an excerpt and a synopsis: Yes. Not enough was happening fast enough. There was a lot in the opening chapters that could be trimmed way down. Well, THAT was a blow because I really was trying to make things lively and exciting while establishing characters and a strong sense of place. But there was good news as well. My agent loved the characters. I did evoke the settings. This story could and should be saved.
So what happened? Open-heart surgery. I trimmed off about 7,000 words in two days. Two chapters disappeared in five clicks. Snick. Clack. Gone. (Well, they weren’t completely gone because I had carefully saved what I labeled the “ItalianChasePreErin” file just in case I wound up going a little two far. I also had an ItalianChaseScraps file which was growing exponentially.) I took a slightly more delicate approach to make the other cuts, but I was ruthless. Certain subplots disappeared because my character would be taking a much different path than I’d originally intended.
Then I started moving forward again. This entailed a series of additions and subtractions as I took on scenes that could be saved, but needed substantial modification as I worked them into new situations and settings. And finally, at long last, I really feel like I’ve got some forward momentum back after a series of interruptions, good and bad. Visits from family. Helping my parents clean out their cabin after a devastating flood. A fabulous writers’ retreat. The funeral of my husband’s aunt, a wonderful lady who left us all too soon. A road trip to the northernmost point in Michigan. But I believe it was Katherine Paterson who said that the same things that keep us from writing also give us something to write about.