May Blog: Bye Bye Baby

As the flowers blossom and bloom all round me on my daily walks with Cody it seems somewhat at odds with my current writing practise. Rather than growing, I seem to constantly be cutting at the moment. It’s all part of my paring the story back and starting the story later routine, although now I’m worried that I’ve been over enthusiastic in my preening. I’ve removed over 35,000 words at present and there might yet be more to cut. That said, I feel (and hope) that I’ve the bulk of the cutting done; going forward it should only be tiding up typos and such.

So, what have I taken out? Well, I’d been toying with removing the secondary storyline involving Kitty’s mother, so I bit the bullet and deleted it. Or rather, I saved it elsewhere for possible future use. This means that Bridget (Kitty’s mother) has become a minor character and although she’s still import to the story there’s a lot less of her and her dour personality in it. Naturally because there is now less of Bridget there is also less of Fr. Reilly, and subsequently less of Mrs. Marsh (the parochial house housekeeper). The Bridget / Fr. Reilly storyline accounted for a large portion of the 35,000 words but it was by no means the only major change.

Baby May also got the chop. Early on in the story my plan was for her to play a larger role, or at least have more of an impact as a character. As the story worked itself out I realised that this would be too complicated and ultimately needless, so it was bye-bye baby. Two (possibly three!) murders have been taken from the later part of the story, as well as a good chunk of unnecessary exposition that was very much first draft stuff. These changes were a lot of work. It’s not just removing the clear and obvious parts from the story but it’s also unravelling and nit-picking every little detail associated with them. I’m still finding related pieces that I have to delete and I’m sure I’ll continue to find them well into my next draft.

I was sad and uncertain in making these changes and it’s quite a scary process to cut so many words that I spent such a long time writing in the first place. However, now that it’s done I feel that the story is more focused and cleaner. That doesn’t mean that some of the edits won’t work their way back in at some point but for now I think it was the best decision.

At present, I’m focussed primarily on the UK part of the story, which takes place in the 1940s during WWII. This section has been pared back greatly and in doing so I’ve intentionally changed the overall tone. My main concern with this part of the first drat was motivation. What’s driving her at this stage of the story? I realised that it didn’t have to be as ‘big’ as it was and so I’ve kept the same core motivation while removing some of the melodrama (which, it must be said, I love).

At this stage, I’m still very much working my way through the second draft but I’ve made huge changes already. I’ve noted some clear story issues that need to be resolved and I also want to restructure the overall format. Only in the last week have I actually been writing new words into the story. So far I’ve written another chapter that introduces a new conflict. It’s not as melodramatic as the murders it replaces but it fits nicely with the story and bridges the gap to the ending that was left in the wake of all my snipping. I’ve oodles of notes for other additions to the story, especially a chapter or two in the midsection of the story’s timeline, set during the mid-1930s in Dublin. I need to recoup some of my lost words but I don’t think I’ll have a problem doing so.

So, May has been a busy month and, if I’m honest, terrifying at times – especially watching the word count drop. Now that it’s done, I think the story is in a far better place and hopefully June will take me to the end of the second draft. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough I’m now selling my home and moving! No doubt I’ll write more about my move as it happens. I’m a glutton for punishment.

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