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Second guessing myself

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In Robert Heinlein's five rules for writing, he proclaimed:


  • Rule One: You Must Write. ...
  • Rule Two: Finish What You Start. ...
  • Rule Three: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order. ...
  • Rule Four: You Must Put Your Story on the Market. ...
  • Rule Five: You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold.


Hopeful authors routinely break all five rules. I'm in the middle of breaking rule number three on my just completed work--now back in revision. However, I'm not sure a certain level of revision actually counts as breaking rule number three. I've read books containing his correspondence with his agent, and even Heinlein occasionally had doubts and reworked ideas before finally being happy with them.

Last night I decided to do an adverb purge. In my evaluation of Pro Writing Aid, it did not flag overuse of adverbs as a particular problem, but I deleted 600 adverbs, or morphed them into different (non-adverb) words. I don't think the purge was paranoia, I 'actually' (haha) got rid of some actually's and other filler.

Today I worked on a different issue. Since the book is a sequel, the first few chapters dredged up background from the first book, so I had some backstory in Chapters 2, 4, 5, and 6. Today I took out most of it, leaving just a couple of sentences or a paragraph to emphasize what past experience was driving the hero's current action.

I rewrote the backstory as a set of definitions for entities and characters from the original book, and added that as THE DREADED FOREWORD. Then I introduced the Foreword by warning people not to read it, unless they felt they must. In truth, if a reader isn't familiar with the original, and won't read it first, that information is helpful. The magazine serial of the original had about 7,000 words total of "the story up to here" in the second, third, and fourth issues.

How did I get caught up on the backstory? My wife mentioned that on her THIRD READ (LOL) it started to drag. In truth, I worried about it some, myself. I've discussed before I believe there is little chance of being able to publish this novel, but I'm considering that making it as sharp as possible might improve that slight chance.

Between the adverb purge and the backstory trim, I wound up well short on my word count for the novel. So I spent the rest of the day beefing it back up. I found a few scenes which were a little sparse and fleshed them out, added one short scene, and then added a major scene (1000 plus words) in Chapter 4, which was a short chapter to begin with, made even shorter with the backstory trim.

The scene in Chapter 4, I believe, was needed. A major event in Chapter 3 had only third party response, and the new scene gave a direct response by principal characters.

I also imported the manuscript into Scrivener and broke it up into chapter documents. That let me create a separate folder for tiny documents to hold the trimmed backstory paragraphs. I hate to simply delete content. It might come in useful somewhere, someday.

All this brings my word count up to 85.5K, which is a high water mark. Should I be accepted by the estate and move on to a publisher's editor, I might have to add more. I chose this length to approximate the length of the original, but I know of at least one publisher who wants 100K words, or else. So there is a chance that even if this book gets on the track, an editor might demand another 15k words to reach the finish line. For me, that would mean adding three fat chapters, so I've stowed away some ideas of places I could add a major piece of action. "Be prepared".

Tomorrow I'm going to tackle one additional idea. I think I can do better with the ending ...

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