revision notes

My novel is about a marriage. Eleven scenes tell the couple’s origin story–meeting, falling in love, deciding to get married… Approximately forty pages worth. It’s some of my best writing and it should be. I’ve worked on these pages for years.

But from the first draft, these scenes never seemed to be in the right place–whether it was interspersed throughout as sections, included as separate chapters, as one chapter… I tried adding to them with some less good writing. I tried compressing them.

Almost nothing am I ever certain of when writing a novel, and yet, from the beginning I knew where this novel began–at the airport some years into Cass and Ethan’s marriage.

Despite that certainty, for the last draft, I put these origin scene pages at the beginning–right up front. It was the only place I hadn’t tried, plus I thought it might create a good feeling for them as a couple. I knew it wasn’t right and yet I did it.

In all these years, the one thing I never considered (or if I did it was so fleeting as not to register) was that I didn’t need these pages AT ALL. But last week, this was the only option I had left.

I didn’t know how I would make the story work without them. I stared into the ocean. The tide went out and it came back in again. I couldn’t figure out how I would land safely. But I jumped anyway. I cut the pages.

And then I kept going. In the end I went back and picked up one scene as a separate chapter.

But this was the answer. After all this time, I didn’t need them. These scenes from the past were weights around the story I was trying to tell. They were also the problem with the pacing. It’s crazy. Now the pages fly by.

After all these years, it was as simple as that.

13 thoughts on “revision notes

  1. Hey, Cynthia,

    I really resonate with this. It is very interesting, isn’t it, how perspective is so key. I mean, we all know you have to kill your darlings, sure. But when you don’t necessarily consider them darlings and aren’t sure where to put them, then that’s troubling! 🙂 So glad you were able to break on through. Wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cynthia, don’t throw away those pages! When you publish your novel you can offer that part of the story on your website as “deleted content.” Your readers will be intrigued to have that background information on your characters. I have two such chapters from my forthcoming novel and the publisher’s marketing department even asked specifically if I had any deleted material that could be used for giveaways. Nothing is ever wasted, especially good writing. 🙂

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  3. Yes – I looking forward to reading this book too! Cynthia, you are so brave and such an inspiration. I have printed a paragraph of this post and highlighted “But I jumped anyway” and written your name below and pinned it above my desk. Thank you!

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  4. I appreciate your support, Karen! It didn’t feel freeing when I did it, but it did after the fact. I’ve never cut that much before so good thing to learn.


  5. Sophfronia, you know I didn’t throw those pages away! They are happily sleeping on my hard drive. But I had no idea publishers were interested in deleted content–that is fascinating. Thank you, thank you for your comment–it is encouraging in so many ways : ) Great to see you at AWP. xo


  6. Wow, that comment from Sophfronia–who knew??

    I did something like this a few weeks ago but it was only a paragraph starting a story. Similar in that it was backstory, I’d always thought it critical, never even considered cutting it… but had moved it around a bit over the few years since drafting the story. In my case it was a suggestion from a reader and I was astonished and then almost embarrassed to realize I could cut it with no harm. Not nearly so hard as so many pages, though, plus the story of how your central characters came together in the first place. I don’t know that I’d ever be able to see, all by my lonesome, that I should cut so much material. Congrats and godspeed!

    PS, It’s so inspiring to feel your passion for this novel as you do the final revision.


  7. Thank you, Louise! I’ve been savoring your comment these last few days, wanting it to last as long as possible. Cutting all those pages was worth it to be pinned above your desk. I love thinking about being there : )


  8. Astonished and almost embarrassed–yes, yes, yes. And after four years and numerous rejections, I would have never thought I’d still feel passionate about this novel, and I hadn’t realized that I did until you mentioned it. So thank you!

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