Thursday, July 17, 2008

Editing with an Eye to Submission

You can tell that Amnesia Door isn't my first picnic.

First, I'm cutting pretty mercilessly. Second, I'm cutting with an eye towards submissions.

How bad is that?

In my experience, most agents/editors ask you to submit either the first three chapters or the first fifty pages. So, I've made sure to concentrate a lot of key info and "hooking" ideas in the first three chapters. The basic set-up is there, as well as a few well placed (but maybe too heavy) hints about the future: basically, I set-up the characters and the world and hint at the conflict that leads to the plot. In general, I think it's probably a good idea to get this info out by the first three chapters, so altering my book to fit this is probably a key thing. of the best scenes (in my humble opinion) is when one character reveals to the other characters the "big secret" that the other characters then spend most of the rest of the book trying to solve. It is supposed to be a touching, shocking scene that should illicit both pity and a desire for the other characters to set off on their mission. In other words, this is a pretty pivotal scene.

But it ends on page 64.

So now I'm asking myself...should I cut a chapter before this to make the scene get to the 50 page cut that many agents ask for? By page 50, Harry discovers he's a wizard in HP and the Sorceror's Stone. By 52, Meg has started looking for her father in A Wrinkle in Time. Way before page 50, Lucy's entered the wardrobe, and so has Edmund, and by the 50 mark, Susan and Peter are talking to the professor about it.

Now, I know that 14 pages are not that big a deal. But I also know that many agents/editors are only getting those first fifty pages, and won't see the next 14 with the big reveal. And, given the evidence of other books, I probably should move the scene up. But moving the scene up means that I have to cut--I can't rearrange these scenes.

When I said I was cutting mercilessly, I meant a few paragraphs here, a few pages there. Wow...14 pages hurts. But...I'd better go get my Spartan to sharpen his blade a bit more...


Unknown said...

ETA: OK, so I thought about it a bit more. I think cutting a whole chapter is a bit too easy. Instead, I'm going to go through the first 64 pages of the ms. and try to really really really focus on cutting everything that is absolutely not necessary. One of the dangerous things about writing a book that takes place in a classroom is making the reader feel like he's in school. So, I'm cutting line by line, really focusing on tightening the entire thing. If that doesn't get me down by enough, I think I know a chapter that should go...and considering I've already selected a chapter to cut, that might be a sign that the chapter should go anyway.

PJ Hoover said...

My "Call to Action" when I submitted was on page 130 or something horrible like that. My editor said to get to it by page 36. I got it to page 55 (though by page 50 it's well on it's way into the scene).

Vivian Mahoney said...

Sounds like you're doing the right thing. The first 50 pages has got to leave the reader wanting more. Good luck!

Unknown said...

Wow PJ--It's really been painful for me to get it cut by 14 pages...I can't imagine cutting 75!! Did you add more later, or did that mean the entire manuscript was cut short?

Vivian--Thanks. I'm quickly learning the difference between advice from writers and nonwriters. Nonwriters tell me that my work is fine and don't cut anything. Writers tell me to cut away :)

PJ Hoover said...

LOL, Beth. The Emerald Tablet went from 113k words to about 60k - mostly all from the beginning.

Unknown said...

60k...that makes me feel much better. I think the final of mine will be about there; I was worried that would be too short!