Breaking Up Ain't That Hard to Do

So a few months ago, I realized I had a plot hole in my WIP (that's work-in-progress, in case that's helpful). Just days after finishing the very rough first draft, something wasn't sitting right. Actually, it hadn't been sitting right for a while. I'd been in denial about how big that plot hole was because it meant major reworking, but I was so worn out from getting the draft done that I wasn't ready to deal with it yet. 

I made a bunch of notes about maybe-this and maybe-that, banged out a possible revision outline, and decided one of my heroes was in need of some development. I made some more notes. I called a few of my most trusted beta readers and talked their ears off about character and plot and pesky things like logic.

I spent a lot of time glaring at my laptop.

 This is exactly what it was like. Only without the demons under the chair and in the paintings. Otherwise, though, it was exactly the same.

This is exactly what it was like. Only without the demons under the chair and in the paintings. Otherwise, though, it was exactly the same.

Then the edits came back from my editor for Bad Judgment, and I had to put the WIP aside for a while and focus on...well, still focus on revision, just for a different book. For the record, edits take a couple of months, all told, although there are breaks built in while my editor wages her side of the war. Multiple passes, back and forth, dozens of emails, lots of whining about how uncool it is that a draft can't be perfect the first time (on my side, anyway) and lots of patience (my editor's side). And during each of those breaks I went back to my notes and my outline and tried to figure out just what the heck my WIP was trying to do.

Each time I thought I might be making progress, I'd get interrupted again. This, in case it sounds like I'm complaining, was AWESOME. I never really felt like I had the solution, you know? I was closer each time I came back to it, but things weren't really gelling yet. So the editing breaks to work on Bad Judgment forced me to let my ideas on the WIP marinate for a while, and gave me a very handy rationalization for why I hadn't come up with something tangible yet for fixing that blasted plot hole.

But I got the copyedits off to my editor last Sunday, and that's the last round of edits. I was officially out of excuses. I mean, completely out of excuses. I had Jury Duty on Tuesday, and I only had to sit there for an hour before they let us all go. I even got to watch a video about how I'd done my part as a citizen to make America a better place, so I walked out of the courthouse feeling really noble and self-sacrificing, so I couldn't even use the excuse that I'd endured so much exhausting civic drudgery that my muse had died of red tape or something. The universe just was not working with me at all.

So I sat down and forced myself to look over all of my notes again. Which was good, because I figured it out. Finally. I realized that I didn't have a plot hole.

I had plot holes. Plural.

Actually, I had swiss cheese in my WIP. 

So many things were wrong. SOOOOO many things.

But it all originated from two big issues (a particular character who needed more development, and my villain's apparent inability to think things through, in case you're interested), and I had the solution for each one. I knew it. I felt it in my gut. And because I don't trust my gut for shit, I called my beta readers again to run it past them and make sure it made more sense this time around. It did. I was good to go. 

The only thing left to do was to cut out the stuff that wasn't working.

I kept track of the number of pages that had to go, just so I could be dramatic later on the internet.

It was 73. 

73 pages.

Now, before you feel too bad for me (assuming you were going to bother), this isn't going where you think it is. 

I expected to be really upset about this. That's a metric ton of work. That's weeks of work. And yeah, some of those pages will be coming back (albeit in greatly altered form), but for the most part, when I hit delete, I proved that over the course of those weeks during which I'd written those 73 pages, I'd pretty much butchered the digital equivalent of a tree for absolutely no good reason. Which, yeah, you could expect would be reasonably upsetting. I anticipated a doozy of a freak-out, but...

But it felt kind of good.

Actually, it felt really good.

It's probably not all that surprising, when you think about it. I mean, those pages had been weighing me down for over a month. A month in which my deadline crept closer and closer and the problem did not get any smaller. Being able to see the problem and kick it loose was sort of freeing. And there was something really enlivening about knowing I had another 25k words to play with to pound this WIP into a shape vaguely resembling coherent fiction.

It worked, too. The revision of the outline started to fly. I not only solved the main plot hole that had been bugging me from the very beginning, I ramped up some other things that weren't doing nearly as much as they should've been. 

So when my husband asked me how my day was, I said, "I was very productive. I cut 73 pages."

He's so cute when he makes that face like a confused otter.

 Obviously this is not a confused otter. I couldn't find a picture of a confused otter. But that's okay, because this is a crappy bored unicorn, and that's way better.

Obviously this is not a confused otter. I couldn't find a picture of a confused otter. But that's okay, because this is a crappy bored unicorn, and that's way better.