#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chapter 21... How Not To Write A Novel

Chapter 21 is the perfect example of what happens when you have a great idea that fit in Draft 1, but doesn't fit after your novel evolves.

JANE DOE started like most science fiction novels - or really like any of my novels sci-fi, fantasy, or other - with a basic idea: a dead body who is identified as a living person. Against all logic, there are two copies of the person. That was my idea.

In a future with clones this isn't very hard to explain. It's not even wildly impossible in the defined universe. But it lays the base for questioning what defined us as humans, and what makes us unique as individuals.

From that foundation I went through draft one adding any ol' idea that came along. One of those ideas was a zany little side note where the two main characters wound up doing security work at the Dizzy Dahlia Flower Show. Hijinks ensued. The scene was funny, the character's were reacting. And if JANE DOE were a romantic comedy rather than a near-future thriller or science fiction novel, it would have worked. But it isn't a romantic comedy, and the scene doesn't work.

Chapter 21 kills the tension and pacing. As a an inexperienced author I often left scenes like this in because I loved them. The scene is fun. It makes me laugh. And isn't that enough? (The answer is NO in case you hadn't guessed.)

It's not just letting go of a good scene that no longer fits, sometimes authors fear letting the novel evolve. They don't want the story to change. Did JANE DOE change between draft one and draft nine? Yes. Of course. Why would I edit if I didn't want the story to change? The current draft is harder, darker, edgier in many ways than the original fluff. But the foundation has stayed the same. The base I started with is still there.

Chapter 21 no longer supports the weight of the story. It needs to go. Who know, maybe I'll turn it into a short story and offer it as bonus material. In the meantime, wacky hijinks are out, paranoia and distrust are in.


  1. Those cuts are sometimes the hardest to make. The ones where you laugh or cry hardest as an author, no matter how many times you read it.

  2. I've just made a few similar cuts. They hurt. It's great that novels evolve and it's also great that those scenes can be saved elsewhere so the novel can go do what it truly needs to do.

  3. Sounds like it went from somewhere near Spaceballs to something like Space Odyssy 2001...Having just watched Paul with my grandson. I think my sci/fi preferences lean towards Men in Black. I like the humor. Even Close Encounters of the Third Kind had some humor. My view is if they are coming here they have the upper hand. Independence Day was cool, but Avatar could not be a serious alien encounter movie because Siquourney Weaver was not in it. One reason I can't write sci/fi it would require to much thought. I write to enjoy it..It is still work sometimes though. Good luck will have to read more of your stuff.....