Imagine if you will a movie scene: A car hangs on a cliff, its front end over open space, balanced on the edge of a precipice. Several people are pushing it forward, toward the lip. They strain, metal squeals, (closeup of gravel and dirt spilling into the void as the balance point nears). The car teeters. And…
If that tortured metaphor describes my third novel, Fail Deadly, I had quite a crowd pushing, not just that one guy in the picture..
My critique groups helped me excise unnecessary details with week-by-week observations of the draft. But I kept the overall plot outline. Then beta readers said the first fifty pages were slow. I cut the words by twenty percent but kept the story line. Then the MS got on the long list for the Grindstone Literary Prize, so I felt that I’d arrived at a final version. The car was still secure on the on the cliff; in fact, it seemed as if the Grindstone pulled it back to comparative safety. More confident, I called a contact in the New York publishing world for advice. He knows lots of agents. He said, “When the MS is the best you can make it, send it to me.”
Was it the best I could make it? I retreated to the comforting thought that you can always find changes to make, and over-critical editing might just make it worse.
The underlying problem was too much information in the beginning. I suspected that I had left some explication in that really didn’t need to be there. One problem most of we authors face (at least, the authors in my critique groups) seems to be that, when we draft the story, we explain the plot and its mechanisms to ourselves … in (sometimes excruciating) detail so we won’t be embarrassed when someone finds a logical flaw. We end up satisfied that our plots are well thought out, but the story often carries too much detail. Which slows it down. Which is a bad thing.
I finally decided to subject Fail Deadly to the not-so-tender mercies of an editor.
The crash you hear echoing up from the abyss is that poor car hitting the rocks.
Call it re-re-rewrite.
Oh oh! Don’t like the image — crash and burn? Maybe swing into the repair shop for tuneup and fresh coat of paint? Entire re-write? I hope you’re being overly dramatic.