Oh Chapter 11, Why?
Okay! So, chapter 11, a fairly short chapter and one that I thought was fairly good in draft form. I had some editing notes for it, of course, as I do for every chapter in my manuscript, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal.
If editing this manuscript is teaching me anything, it is that I am wrong about a lot of things a lot of the time, good to know! Overall, the chapter was not in horrible shape. It closes with a conversation between two main characters and ends when one leaves the other’s office. I was pretty comfortable with this ending and the conversation. I thought it had a good pace, good dialogue and useful information was exchanged. There is also some tension and a hint at a past relationship between these two characters, all things that I was going for.
What didn’t work, and basically took me a frigging week to hash out, were the two pages leading up to this. That’s right, two stupid pages took a week of my life. The first paragraph introduces a new and important setting, so it was important to me that I got that right. I probably rewrote the opening paragraph two dozen different ways, brutal. I didn’t even rewrite it so much as rearrange it, which is probably worse. Anyway, my two huge problems in this chapter were the dissemination of information and the flow of the writing. Both problems that are made all the more obnoxious by their abstractness. I would rather have something that just sucked outright than ‘didn’t flow well.’ What does that even mean? I don’t know, but let me tell you, those first two pages sure didn’t flow very well.
I solved this problem by rereading these pages about a thousand times, each time either adding or deleting or rearranging the prose. Slowly, very, very slowly, it got better. I am happy to report that when all was said and done, my word count for this chapter actually went down instead of up, which is good news because I seem to be adding a lot more than I am taking away.
The other problem is a tricky one for me. In my own writing, I am not a big fan of the information dump, though oddly enough I like it in some fiction that I read. I prefer to slowly leak information as it ‘naturally’ comes up in the story. I never had a problem with this, but I’ve taken some flack for it in a critique group, and now I question myself more. I don’t think it helps that as a reader, I don’t mind not knowing all of the answers. Even at the end of a book, as long as the main story ties up nicely, I am perfectly content if some ends are left dangling. For me, it’s just like real life, how often does everything wrap itself up in a perfect package? However, I seem to be the only one who feels that way.
I still will not information dump though, too bad, not doing it. My reader can learn things as my character learns them, that’s only fair. I am trying to be more aware of what information I give though, and when, and of course, what the reader needs to know and I struggled with that in this chapter.
Finally I am happy enough with it to move on to chapter 12. For me that means I can read it through and not feel hung up on anything. I addressed all of my concerns in my editing notes and got through a read without making a face. To me, that’s writing success, and for chapter 11, one that was tricky to achieve.