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Deleting Chapters and subplots

Crumbly Writer

I'm curious, how often do the authors here remove chapters which don't work, or trash complete subplots that don't go anywhere? Does anyone do this, and does it occur very often? If so, what kinds of things have you removed (examples please). It'll help the rest of us wrestle with similar issues.

In my case, I don't do it often, but I have deleted complete chapters, as well as combining and splitting chapters, so my chapter counts tend to vary over time. Since I write my stories ahead of time, I go back and revise the story, so any subplots which don't work, or which aren't 'realized', get handled during that process, while I'm reviewing the entire story.

As far as deleting chapters, it's been a while, so I can't really remember the details, but there was an interesting chapter in Catalyst involving Alex visiting a summer camp where he encounters a camp councilor who was attracted to him, and figures out how to explain what he does to her (camp) kids.

But now matter how I worked it, the entire chapter was incredibly slow, ponderous, and just didn't pan out, so I trashed the entire 1-chapter subplot (she was supposed to set up a camp to train Alex's followers and the children of his followers).

In my most recent story, the story started slow and it took until chapter 4 until the reader finally found out what the story conflict was. After struggling with it, I finally reorganized the chapters, having him reflecting on what he faced in the first chapter (previous chapter 4).

Joe_Bondi_Beach
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I'm curious, how often do the authors here remove chapters which don't work, or trash complete subplots that don't go anywhere? Does anyone do this, and does it occur very often? If so, what kinds of things have you removed (examples please). It'll help the rest of us wrestle with similar issues.


If you mean after the story is posted here or on Amazon, etc., my answer is almost never, even if I'm revising the thing vigorously.

If you mean during drafting before publication, my answer is, all the time. For my recent long stories I've written the first draft during NaNoWriMo, 30 days, 50K words. No editing allowed. So there's plenty to delete.

In Goddess, posting now, I deleted several sex scenes, two of them occupying entire chapters, because they were without redeeming social value. (OK, just between us, they were also boring and over-the-top and did not do anything for the plot.)

So for me it's mostly tossing out extra, even if sometimes I need to add to flesh out something. For my thriller, still under construction, I had at least a couple or three extra sub-plots that involved more layers of conspiracy. I dumped them because (a) I couldn't keep track of them and (b) they bored me. Ex.: Three principal characters have a nice threesome. Throwaway line at the end of the chapter: "None of them noticed the figure at the window with a camera." Ooh. Totally cheesy idea, and I tossed it because trying to figure out who was behind the camera was totally boring.

Final thought: as I'm posting now, even as I revise, sort of touch-ups, I find myself removing unneeded words. Not a lot, but more than two or three.

bb

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Joe_Bondi_Beach

If you mean after the story is posted here or on Amazon, etc., my answer is almost never, even if I'm revising the thing vigorously.

I rarely take stuff out of my already published books, but the reception/sales of one book weren't doing well, so I kept trying to find ways to 'fix it'. Reorganizing the chapters seemed to help, though it still starts slow (as do most of my stories). I was mostly thinking of during the revision process.

As far as touch-ups during the revision process, I'm always making word changes during reviews (say before postings).

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I'm curious, how often do the authors here remove chapters which don't work, or trash complete subplots that don't go anywhere? Does anyone do this, and does it occur very often?


Yes, but not really.

I can get away with it because I don't post until after I've finished the story. However, there are times when I feel I need to rip something out to make a story work the way I want it to. In that case I copy the story as is, put that aside, then rip out what I don't want, go back and massage the story and write it to completion.

Sometimes what I ripped out will become the seed for another story that's different by similar in some ways.

typo edit

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I'm curious, how often do the authors here remove chapters which don't work,


I deleted the first 2 1/2 chapters of my novel (before it was published, of course). The feedback I got was that it was boring. I was trying to develop the character, but it evidently didn't work.

So I deleted all that boring stuff and moved the introduction of my villain/hero to the first scene. Then I sprinkled some of the deleted stuff throughout the novel.

That's why I finish a story before posting any of it.

I have another example where I actually had to go back and add stuff. In "Matilda and the Assassin" I had to go back and develop a character more. I originally intended him to be simply a driver for Matilda who was going to be an assassin at the end (she was too young to drive). But I liked her too much so I gave her a different life at the end. The role of that minor character changed drastically to accommodate the new ending.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

I agree, I am far more likely to finish a story that starts quickly with something that grabs the reader with action and motivation. It doesn't have to be a sex scene, normally those go later once the problem facing the hero is demonstrated, or at least enough of the problem(s) so my interest as a reader is engaged. Stories that start with lots of description (It was a dark and foggy night) and keep on describing stuff tend to get replaced by something I want to read. If I have to know the height, weight and hair color of all the characters before I find out what the story is about, there better be a very good description of the story that makes me want to plow through the boring stuff.

Replies:   Joe_Bondi_Beach
Joe_Bondi_Beach

@richardshagrin

I agree, I am far more likely to finish a story that starts quickly with something that grabs the reader with action and motivation.


How about: He kept his 23-foot schlong wrapped loosely around his waist, unlimbering it only when he met a cutie who could take all of it and sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the same time. Especially the high notes.

Would that do it?

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Joe_Bondi_Beach

I don't think so. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

G Younger
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Here are some specific examples of what I've deleted sections of books.

1) I've introduced a character that for whatever reason wasn't either wanted or needed. To clean up the book I had to go back and delete whole passages over several chapters.

2) I had a plot point I originally wanted to slowly build, but later decided to make it more of a surprise. I actually had to delete three chapters.

3) After my editor got a hold of it, and finally stopped laughing, I decided a plot line didn't work.

4) My current book - Getting it Wrong I thought I was done so I sent it out as a gift to some of my more loyal readers ($$$). They HATED it! It went from a 12 chapter novel to over 20 and large sections had to be rewritten. I admit they were right. I also go a lesson on what was and was not proper time travel story lines.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I'm curious, how often do the authors here remove chapters which don't work


I just thought of another one. When I originally wrote "The Preacher's Wife" it was 5 chapters. Although it was complete, people kept asking for more. So I added 5 more chapters.

What they really wanted was more sex, but it had nothing to do with the plot. So when I revised it to post on SOL, I deleted the extra 5 chapters. (The revision changed the 5 chapters to 6, but it was the same five chapters written differently -- with the same ending.)

Crumbly Writer

One thing I've done, is to discover very late in the process (after the editors have gone over it), that I've got duplicate names. (I've done this a few times over the years.) Since they were minor characters, I never noticed initially, but it causes unnecessary confusion. In one ("The Lad Who Poked the Devil"), I used the same name of one of the secondary characters. However, since he never really played a big role in the story, I simply wrote him out of the book, casually mentioning that he'd gotten killed between books. The strange thing is, I only picked the name to make a biblical analogy.

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