It is a truth universally acknowledged that I always start writing books in the wrong place. I have yet to pen a manuscript and retain the first chapter through revision. I always add something or, more often, throw something out. Often, thousands of things. The delete keys speaks poniards, and every word stabs. (Quick, name that play!)
I’m currently writing the second entry in a series about DC staffers and, only about 20,000 words in, I’ve trashed the first half of the first chapter. I really liked what I cut. As an introduction to the heroine and her voice, it worked. There wasn’t a backstory dump, it wasn’t slow or boring: it introduced the dynamic for the book, but it did so in such a way as to undercut the relationship between the hero and the heroine. If there’s a sin in romance writing, that’s it. So into the round file (aka the trash) that opening scene went.
Since I can’t show that scene to you because I haven’t even shown it to my editor yet, I’m going to show you the unrevised, original first chapter of Brave in Heart instead. Needless to say, this isn’t how the finished product reads.
In this case, the cut occurred because nothing happens in this eight page-opening. In this earlier draft of the book, Margaret and Theo’s separation was much longer (brought on about a fight about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, rather than John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry of 1859). The prologue didn’t exist yet. There was just…this.
Now I like the image of Margaret on the top of the hill. And while much of this writing made it into the book (albeit in other forms), some of her backstory didn’t. As a writer, I needed to know these things about her and writing this was the only way to learn them.
What I’m trying to say is writing something you don’t ultimately use in a book isn’t falling down the rabbit hole, it’s process. It’s inevitable and futile and a little bit beautiful. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Continue reading “From the Round File: Brave in Heart”