Today I met with a friend of a friend–a writer who just got an agent. We had a great conversation. We recommended some book series to each other. She was able to shed some light on how the publishing circuit works, and introduced me to a bunch of different resources for constructive literary criticism and ways to connect to the writer community.
I told her a little about my story, and she gave me a few tips.
One such tip was regarding age/time gaps–something I have been concerned about for some time. By “age/time gap,” I mean ending one chapter with the characters at a certain age, and then fast forwarding ahead to when the characters are older. In To Belong to a Beast, there are three major age/time gaps: between the Prologue and Chapter 1, between Chapter 3 and Chapter 4, and between Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.
The Prologue has no set time period, making Rome’s actual age unguessable. Chapter 1 picks up with Labriella and Rome as children, but there is no way to tell how much time has passed between Rome’s parents’ funeral and Rome meeting Labriella. Rome is, in essence, frozen at the age of his trauma, until Labriella steps into the picture and snaps him out of it, which frees him to grow and age. This becomes a significant detail to determining what exactly happened to Rome when he first ran into that forest. The time gap is hinted at later by Kitiora, who refers to Rome’s story as something of a legend. This begs the question of who the girl in the Prologue actually is, and whether it is possible for her to be Labriella. This guessing game was intentional. However, it becomes problematic if Rome is going to search for his parents’ murderer, because the murderer could be long dead by the time Rome gets around to it…and that doesn’t make for a very confrontational conclusion to the mystery.
The gap between Chapters 3 and 4 is one that can easily be filled if I decided to go back to it to fill in the blanks, because it involves Rome and Labriella growing up together, which can have relevance to main storyline. It provides the opportunity to explore characters like Mistress Healer and Pandora more in-depth. But Beauty and the Beast is not meant to be a children’s story, and most of us (myself included) are waiting for the adult action to happen–you know, relationships and fights and stuff–which makes wading through childhood stories a drag. Added insight into temple life and visuals of Rome’s connection with the forest help the first couple chapters seem like less of an accident, but considering future conflicts, perhaps these inner workings are better explained later. Back-stories have an expiration point when it comes to plot progression.
The gap I most resent is the gap between Chapters 4 and 5, because I could have SO much fun with writing about teenagers. Raging hormones, self-discovery…priceless. And sarcastic, witty, sensitive teenage Rome is one of my favorites. But at this point in writing the story, I honestly got fed up with writing background. I couldn’t handle it anymore; I had to get to the plot.
What I should have figured out is that my readers might feel the same way. I figured it just felt long to me because I had all these other ideas in my head while I was writing it, and so the preliminaries just couldn’t come out fast enough. But in light of the focus of my story–which is on Rome and Labriella when they are [presumably] in their early twenties (well, Rome is there maturity-wise, even if not literally)–these age/time gaps should probably not exist. Which is why I’m going to take my new author friend’s advice, and I’m going to cut out the Prologue up through Chapter 3.
The other advice I am taking into account is regarding story length. Currently, To Belong to a Beast stands at about 124,500 words typed (and that’s without author notes or chapter titles other than “Chapter __”). Rumor has it novels in my genre shouldn’t go over 115,000 words–and that’s the high end of the spectrum. Apparently experienced, best-selling novelists have a lot of leeway with that, but we rookies do not. Taking out the Prologue and Chapters 1-3 should help with that a bit, but those are actually my shortest chapters. Taking out most of Chapter 8 will help too. But I’m going to have to cut something else. We’ll see what that ends up being.
The question is: How do you want me to work the cuts? I already created a lot of confusion when I edited chapters 1-3, and when I combined chapters 6-7. I don’t really want to do that again. I figured out where I want to end this volume. When I finish, I am going to go back through the story and edit it so that it flows better in one style of writing, I am going to change the title, and I am going to change the summary description (which is currently too vague). I can make these adjustments to my already-posted story. Or, I’ve seen other authors on FictionPress post a new/edited version of their old story and label it “Version 2” or “Revised” (like what Chris Rhyanne did with the The Stepway–see my “Favorite Stories” on FictionPress).
Would you rather I make adjustments to the currently posted story, or post a new revised version of the story? And if I delete chapters from the original, do you want me to do it before or after I complete the story?
I will post a poll on my FictionPress profile so you can vote, or you can comment here on this post.