My first chapter wasn't working. When I shared it with my writers' group so many months back, they complimented my setting and said kind words about my main character. But, I can't remember if it was Hannah, Lynne or Amy, who suggested, directly, that my first chapter was busy. Too busy. So I pared it down, or so I thought.
I 've finished a complete draft of this YA novel, and I'm sending it to my writers' group today. But even yesterday, that first chapter still wasn't strong. So I did something desperate: I asked my husband to read it.
I know, I know, that's a risky endeavor. I hear your voices loud and clear. But my marriage is strong. Surely it's strong enough to withstand a critique of ONE chapter. He read it while I puttered in another room.
"It's good," he said, "your writing is solid." But... there was a but in that sentence, and I wanted to hear it. "But," he continued, "there's too much going on. There's three things going on. I think there should be two."
"Thanks," I said. "No problem," he answered. Then he picked up his Blackberry and wandered out of the room.
Bingo. Hello. Well, duh. Light bulb moment.
He was right. I knew it the very second he told me. I edited. I re-read. I repositioned bits and pieces of the story. It's much improved, far from perfect, but it seems to read better; hopefully it intrigues without overwhelming.
The same as you, I keep on learning. I suppose one of my latest lessons is about what makes a good scene. A scene must be long enough, without being lengthy. Enough must happen, without confusing the reader. Sometimes the hardest thing is to cut a scene in two. When you take something out of a scene, you must find somewhere else to put it - never easy. Like a house of cards, you take one away, and the rest of the house starts to tremble. I suppose that is editing. And frankly, that is a lot of work, but painstaking work we must do.