Short post today, because I have other things to devote my considerable freaking-out-energy to, but remember how I was having a panic attack about potential editorial mistakes I could make? Here’s one I’m stressing about right now. Give me your thoughts.
I’ve now heard from five of the six Kid Editors. I’ve also heard from four critique mates and my husband. Most of the comments have been consistent: I need to spend a bit more time making sure that things are clear for readers who aren’t familiar with Arcane and the events of The Boneshaker; there’s a major Tom Guyot reveal, but I didn’t have a scene between Tom and Natalie after that big reveal and everyone felt that was a missed opportunity; everybody felt I needed to clarify someone’s motivations at the end. Fair enough. Fixed, fixed, and fixed. (I think.) I’m waiting to hear from the last editor reading The Kairos Mechanism before it goes to the copyeditor, so we’ll see what she thinks about the changes I made.
I’m also very eager to see what she thinks about The Thing I’m Worried About. The Thing They Don’t All Agree On. The Subject of This Post. Here it is, and it’s a perfect example, I think, of the problem of having to rely on yourself to edit your own work.
Everybody quotes that “kill your darlings” thing. I hate that thing, but I understand the importance of being willing to let go of what you love if it doesn’t serve the story. But what about this stupid situation?
At one point in the story, the two protagonists (Natalie Minks and Ben Claffan) venture into a garden behind the home of Arcane, Missouri’s most mysterious citizen, Simon Coffrett. Simon is a big question mark, and I wanted to give readers a bit of an extra glimpse into his world. So I let Natalie and Ben explore the garden for a bit. Arguably, I let them explore a bit too long.
The thing in question involves five pages of text. Considering the manuscript only runs 130 pages at the moment, five pages is a pretty substantial chunk. On the other hand, it’s not five pages of description. There’s one major thing that happens and one major discussion that happens. So, let’s say it’s three and a half pages of contested material, once the substantive stuff’s been removed.
Most of the adults were very put-off by the fact that I spent three and a half pages meandering there, and suggested strongly that I cut it back. The kid beta-readers, however, wanted–no, demanded that I spend more time there. They wanted more details, more color, more description.
So it comes down to this: do I cut it back, because the adult readers (who are, not coincidentally, the readers most in touch with the pacing and narrative expectations of the publishing world I know) think it’s a bit too meandering and detail-geeky? Or do I leave it, because the kids think it’s great, and gives them some sort of insight into a character they desperately want to know more about?
No, seriously. I’m asking.