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View Full Version : When readers love your "false start."


Michael J. Hoag
02-13-2009, 09:27 PM
Here's my deal:

I've come to the conclusion that chapters 2 and 3 of my recently finished story are "false start." While they're necessary back story, very funny and build character, they really just don't seem to belong.

But my rather large number of beta readers said it would be a sin to cut them. Everyone seems to "love" these chapters. And my betas aren't just all friends of mine. I really trust their opinions.

Yet, an editor that I respect and work with agreed with ME, and told me to start with chapter 4.....

So, when do you keep a "false start?"

I hated Peter Jackson for cutting out Tom Bombadil!

dirtsider
02-13-2009, 09:34 PM
Save the original ms in a separate file. Then do the edits that your editor requests and see if the betas agree with the new version. But never, never lose that original ms just in case the publisher wants something more.

nevada
02-13-2009, 09:41 PM
You're the writer, ultimately the choice is yours and you have to go with your guts. This is not novel writing by committee. that's what choose your own thingie books were for.

Juliette Wade
02-13-2009, 09:43 PM
I'd say set them aside in case someone asks you for a prequel, or someone later asks you to reinstate them. But it seems like the editor finds they are distracting from the core conflict of your story - in which case it's probably best to take the necessary information and subordinate it to the main action. I generally tend to do this in the form of small doses of memory/judgment on the part of characters, i.e. deepening their reactions to the main action by showing how their past experience has changed their judgment of events.

Cyia
02-13-2009, 09:55 PM
If they're humorous, you could maybe sprinkle a few of the elements into conversation later in the MS.

Wayne K
02-13-2009, 10:04 PM
If they're humorous, you could maybe sprinkle a few of the elements into conversation later in the MS.

I've heard this advice about this sort of question more than once, so I'll agree.

Clair Dickson
02-13-2009, 10:20 PM
If they're humorous, you could maybe sprinkle a few of the elements into conversation later in the MS.

I think this is the way to go. Start the plot-- the action-- then when there's a lull, sprinkle in the humor bits. It's good the build character, but sometimes it has to move elsewhere.

D.A.G.
02-13-2009, 10:25 PM
There's a common phrase in writing books: "Kill your darlings." It's painful but can ultimately lead to a clearer manuscript. I second (or third, maybe even fifth) the advice already posted to cut the chapters out of your story since your editor recommended it; you can always paste them in a different word document and have them for later, just in case.

AnnieColleen
02-13-2009, 10:32 PM
Keep them as "author's cut" bonus material, to go on your website later for your adoring fans. ;)

Dawnstorm
02-13-2009, 10:33 PM
Idea: Rework them as short stories and try to sell them. The tag line in the mag might then refer to the up and coming novel - free ads. I see that a lot in SF.

maestrowork
02-14-2009, 01:04 AM
When in doubt, listen to the professionals.

Casual readers don't necessarily know what could be wrong with a ms. unless something truly doesn't work (plot holes, character inconsistency, etc.) But they wouldn't necessarily know what a good start should be unless they're fiction writers themselves. In that case, I think you need to consider your professional editor friend's opinion because he or she knows the pulse of the industry better.

My experience: I had a major "false start" but none of my betas said anything. In fact, one beta thought it was really great read and he liked the characters... blah blah. It wasn't until I started submitting and getting feedbacks from agents that I realized the story didn't start until Chapter 7! I ended up cutting 15,000 words and later sold the book.

Sometimes you really need to step back, look at the thing objectively, and kill the babies, even if your betas don't really have a problem with them.

(and yeah, keep them and offer them as "author's cut" version later after the book is published. That's what I'm going to do -- putting back the 15,000 words as an author's cut in future releases. :) )

Libbie
02-14-2009, 04:28 AM
Tom Bombadil was all color and no plot. He was fun and charming, but he made no difference one way or the other to the story itself.

If your first few chapters are Tom Bombadil, give them something relevant to do with the actual story.

Of course, Douglas Coupland's book Generation X was about 90% Tom Bombadil. No real STORY to speak of showed up until the last two chapters. Still an entertaining read.

Myself, I'd go with the editor's advice and save the "false start" for a later project, or turn it into a short story for publication elsewhere.

Danthia
02-14-2009, 06:51 PM
Just because an idea is good, doesn't mean it belongs in the story. A book isn't about a lot of good writing, it's about a great story :) Do what you think is best for the story.

tehuti88
02-14-2009, 07:44 PM
Seeing as you have an actual editor looking at it, I'd go with what they say, since they're the professionals who know about getting published and such. :)

Others have given good advice about alternate things you can do aside from just cutting the chapters (I agree that even if you cut them, you should keep a copy of them somewhere), but if you want to eventually get published, why not listen to what the professional is saying?

I know I feel rather foolish and dismayed whenever a reader comes across an older story or chapter of mine and loves it, when I myself have long since decided that it's terribly out of date and needs to be redone, but that's how it goes.

hammerklavier
02-16-2009, 08:32 AM
Right. The readers don't really matter in this business.

When in doubt, listen to the professionals.

....

My experience: I had a major "false start" but none of my betas said anything. In fact, one beta thought it was really great read and he liked the characters... blah blah. It wasn't until I started submitting and getting feedbacks from agents that I realized the story didn't start until Chapter 7! I ended up cutting 15,000 words and later sold the book.

Michael J. Hoag
02-20-2009, 09:11 PM
Right. The readers don't really matter in this business.

Thanks folks! Well, now I know what I should do...

But how dare you all suggest that I cut scenes of my sparkling and profuse genius? Alas...

"Well nurse...

"Scalpel?"
"Scalpel..."