Sunday, October 25, 2015

Move It Along!

As I continued writing The Onyx Cluster, I started wondering about the meat of the book.  I had some vague notion of getting from A to B, but how do I bridge that gap?  Then it occurred to me that how I built the bridge wasn't as important as the understanding that it just needed to keep going until it got to the finish.

So many books I've read have what I call "filler" material.  This is stuff that adds pages to a book but doesn't advance the plot very much.  Even many of the so-called classics, like Moby Dick, are filled with this stuff.  Too many in the bookstore share this trait where I'll be reading it and wonder, "Why is the author telling me this stuff?  I don't see any relation to the plot."

For all the grief I give traditional publishing, one of the things they help sift through is some of the unnecessary garbage that holds down our work.  I get that some writers pour their hearts and souls into what they just wrote, but if it doesn't advance the plot, it gets annoying.  Here's a tip - if you have to add filler to your book to make it as thick as you think it should be, maybe your idea isn't as fleshed out as necessary.

I'm not talking about paring things down so far that you lose the feel of your work, but when you re-read, ask if it's truly necessary.  In Salvation Day, I eliminated several chapters that, while nice, did nothing to move the story forward.  Sure, the scenes fit in with the overall mood, but they didn't add anything new.  They felt like placeholders, sort of like in chess where you make a boring no-nothing move in the hopes that your opponent will do something that will make the next series of moves that much more meaningful.

Unfortunately, in writing, this jeopardizes your relationship with your audience.  It can lead to a droning atmosphere that will make them look past the actually important parts when you need them to.

So go back into your work and ask what things mean.  Do they push the story forward?  If not, then they're only stalling traffic, and you have to push them to the side of the road in order to make way for faster cars.

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