What to do with ‘extra’ written material

One of my projects was to edit a romantic novel. It is different in some ways from business writing, but has many similarities.

In business writing there is frequently a list of items, tips, or issues, and I work with the entrepreneur to be sure there is a logical flow to the information.

In a novel, in addition to the flow of the story there is dialogue – a lot of it to convey important elements of the story. Guess what comes with dialogue? Quotation marks that come in pairs. It can be “fun” being sure that both halves of the pair are present, and in the right place.

Different things for me to focus on, but still details that impact on the quality of the final product.

The author of the novel and I were surprised as we got to the end of the editing process when we changed the margins in the Word file we were working in. Up to that point she had been using the typical margins for an 8 ½ by 11 page. However, when her book was printed, the pages would be 8 ¼ by 5 ½. Her book that had been under 300 pages grew to over 500 with the change of four numbers.

This was too long for the genre she was writing in. Some decisions needed to be made.

First she changed to a smaller font. The book was still too long.

Next she looked at cutting the book. Because this wasn’t the first time she had revised this book, she was able to identify a side story that advanced character development but wasn’t tied to the central issue of the story.

By replacing three chapters with a couple of sentences she could convey that the heroine had a rough year at college without going into the details. She was able to advance the story line while staying within the constraints of her genre.

She now had three additional chapters to add to her files of ‘extra’ material. She had several options as to what to do with them:

  • Consider them to be part of a learning experience and never go back to them.
  • Include them in a different book about the same or a different character, going through the experience this side story covered.
  • Use them as the basis of a short story about the same character.
My son's nephew at the beach
My son’s nephew at the beach

Whether writing a novel or a business book, the first part of the process is writing all you can think of about the product. Future steps include the pruning of material that doesn’t really fit this specific book.

Shannon Hale speaks of filling a box with sand as an analogy of writing your first draft. Then you build castles out of part of that sand. The remaining sand can be used for additional castles (books) . . . or form the basis for social media messages . . . or be discarded if it no longer serves a purpose for you.

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I can help you look at the sand in the sandbox and decide what to do with it. Use this link to set up your complimentary Enchanted Book Session:

 “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
Shannon Hale

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