Monday, July 9, 2012

Dissecting My Manuscript

When I was in junior high and high school, I always found science fascinating---especially when we were dissecting worms, frogs, cow eyes, and the like.  When I went to university, I took a Zoology course where we dissected a human body.  It was probably one of the most interesting classes I've ever taken in my life and I still remember a lot of the things I learned because I wasn't just talking about the nerve system or respiratory system, I was looking at it and touching it.  I was constantly amazed at the human body and the way it was put together so perfectly.

This past weekend, I was going over my manuscript, looking at the different parts of it and I realized there was an extraneous character and storyline.  It came to me so clearly that I needed to cut it out in order to tighten things up.  Getting out my writing scalpel isn't as painful as it could be, but I know I need to be precise.  It's hard to cut out an entire character and storyline without mucking up the rest of it.  So I have to not only cut, but smooth things over as well.  And I was feeling a bit overwhelmed about it this morning.

The more I've worked on it, however, the more I realize how much better this will make the book.  As fun as that part of the book would have been, it was just distracting in the long run.  And I don't want my readers distracted or thinking, what did that have to do with anything?

So, I cut myself a piece of chocolate cake with raspberry filling for fortification and I have my manuscript on the table ready and waiting.  I think I'm ready to really pick up my scalpel and get down to business with this thing.  (Wish me luck!)

Do you feel like multiple storylines can be distracting in a book?  Have you ever read a book you wished had been less cluttered?  Tell us all about it!


T.J. said...

The first book that comes to mind that has too many storylines in it is The Count of Monte Cristo. They become very distracting. (You have to read the book, not watch the much-abridged movie.) I felt like I'd switched the channel from one tv show to another and kept bouncing back and forth.

I read another book once (a murder mystery) where a whole storyline felt completely irrelevant and nothing had been gained from it for the mystery or the character investigating it. I felt very cheated.

Just my two cents.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Some very good points, T.J. And I liked your analogy of switching channels in books. I hate that feeling and it always leaves me feeling a little cheated. And a little overwhelmed. Okay, I'll add annoyed in there, too. :)

Debra Erfert said...

If the extra story lines aren't relevant to the main story or at least to the main character and her/his growth, then they shouldn't be there. I have an additional story line going on in my current WIP that pertains to a deep-seeded problem my mc discovers is linked to her parents' deaths when she was a child and has to work through it. It shows her weakness and makes her more likable, I hope. Oh, and she's getting married, so there's another story line. And, really, who doesn't like a wedding that goes terribly wrong?

Debra Erfert said...

Sounds like a delicious piece of cake. I hope it was a big slice. Yummm.

Jordan McCollum said...

That hurts! Your analogy reminded me of another analogy going on in my life. My dad is at this moment working on my kitchen. (You won't recognize it!) (Oh, merciful heavens, please let it be done by the next time you come. I've lived with it like this for over a year.) Dad and my husband are ripping out pieces of the wall, screwing in new drywall and smoothing over the joins. It already looks so much better but there's still a lot of mudding and sanding and painting left until it will look awesome.

Good luck with your reconstruction/surgery! (Do we need to know who's getting cut?)

Jon Spell said...

I didn't enjoy doing dissections in Biology in high school, but (oddly) it wasn't because I was squeamish about cutting into a fetal pig. It was the smell! Gross! (I can still sort of recall that smell, gives me shivers.)

I have had to surgically remove pieces of my story already, and it hurts each time. (But I love this turn of phrase! Isn't it clever?) It causes me such anguish that it ruins my momentum, so, for now, I'm sweeping it under the rug to the end of the document. I'll deal with all of the heartbreak at once rather than slowly pulling the bandaid off.

The epic example of too many storylines is the Wheel of Time series. You get to around the 6th book or so and there are so many different Point of View characters. There's one main character, two supporting main characters, literally dozens of other POVs that get multiple scenes per book. You just want to skip some of them to get back to your favorites. "Ah, man, not another Whitecloak scene!" And, then, if you're like me, you're upset when you finish a book and your favorite doesn't appear at all!

Good luck, Julie! And, remember, cauterize with fire!