The Big Whittle

Anne C. Miles > Writing > The Big Whittle

So I whittled my 135k word book down to 17k for a contest. And to see if I could. It took me three days and I learned much about myself and about my story. Here’s why it helped me.

Editing this book is really daunting. It gave me a manageable goal.
I have a lot of feedback from other people and of course my Longsuffering Editrix® is working on her end of the stick still. She’s basically told me to go write book 2 and leave her to it. But I need to make choices and work out the problems I have with the story, for myself. It’s like an itch in my brain. While I feel I have a lot to start with and plenty to do defining problems, being positive and saying “THIS matters, THIS is good.” and pulling the very most essential part of the story out felt really  energizing. I was uplifted instead of overwhelmed. Now I have the bones. I have what matters. Everything else can be reshaped, and I’ll be ok with it. I felt like I made progress for the first time.

It forced me to cut out all but the very essential things I wanted to say.
This is a high fantasy trilogy. It’s got several subplots and a bunch of characters. I love each and every bit of it. I’m a huge Robert Jordan fan and it shows, can’t help it. But with 3 main characters, I went wide and not deep. This forced me to really say, “Ok. One MAIN main character. ” Then I had to explore her more. Then I had to make sure her story has all its parts. I may go back and do this for the rest of the subplots and put them back together. It also forced me to say, ok I have 3 main characters, each one gets a focus book. So the next two books will focus on Trystan and Dane. Respectively.

It tightened my prose more than a Victorian corset
Yes, I want to add some description back, but wow did I learn a lot about my own habits! I use “then” a lot. I mean a lot. I don’t need it, 98.7% of the time. Also, while I’m not a fan of absolutely no adverbs (hey, we use them when we speak, stop being intolerant and trying to make my dialogue wooden!) , I was able to prune many of them out. Even if I add chapters back, I feel good about the pieces I have left and feel like they are the standard moving forward.

It brought out plot questions
These aren’t holes exactly. They don’t make a reader go hmmm. But they’re things I haven’t fully defined and worked through that I need to wrassle. The biggest one that came out pertained to the King’s Guard. I cut the section completely but need to sort through how the King’s Guard works with the Conclave before I go further. I also need to write out in my story bible what makes a faisant a faisantand how they are chosen and who has been one in the past that I’ll show. I’m carrying these things in my head but need to explore them and record it. I haven’t. Boy, does it show.

It emphasized and highlighted issues my beta readers have addressed. One in particular. I’ve has a few people say I didn’t show/portray “sorrowfish” well enough. I think I may have solved the issue though. We’ll see. I’m still stewing on it but at least trying to distill it and show it gave me some insights.  I also know now that I have to finish the trilogy before I can edit this with a final edit. That sucks but I understand it now. 

Anyhow, this was a cool exercise. It helped me and I’m glad I did it. Do you have some exercise you’ve done that has pushed you forward?

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