As you know, I’ve been revising the as-yet-unnamed sequel to The Unwanted. Actually, it’s gone through several different potential names but I’m still not happy with them. I’ve thought of a Wrath of X title but a) would that give away too much? and also b) Khaaaaaaaan! So maybe something else.
Wait, where was I? Revising, right. I’m about at the halfway point in the novel right now, and this is a section that I was having a bit of trouble with while I was writing the first draft, so I wrote it in script format. It’s a trick I read about on Chuck Wendig’s blog so I wanted to try it out, and it really helped me maintain momentum. I knew it would mean extra work in revision, and sure enough, I was right.
But what I’m doing in this section is reminiscent of what I’ve done in every other section up to this point. That is, I’m cutting huge chunks and rewriting a lot more wholesale. If you’re in revision mode, I thought it might be helpful to see some of what I’ve done as an example.
Here’s a passage of script from the first draft—click to enlarge (and no, I don’t think it gives away any more than you’d be able to figure out from the book jacket):
Now here’s the rewrite (it’s a little long):
Mrs. Rose dropped us off at Stratton’s garage. Before she left, she leaned out her window and beckoned me back to her SUV.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to wait?”
I shook my head. “We’re just picking up Dad’s car and heading out.”
She frowned. “Somehow, I doubt it’ll be as straightforward as that.”
I turned to stare at the garage entrance. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” I tried to smile when I turned back to her. “But what can you do, right?”
She looked over her sunglasses. “What you can do is be careful. And if you run into any trouble please, please call us.”
She reached out the window and touched my cheek. “And tell my daughter to call her mother if she wants to stay in the will.”
Winking, she drew back her hand and rolled up the window. I watched until she turned the corner and disappeared from sight, then faced the building again.
Carlos and Artemis were standing off to the side with Dakota and our bags. Now, Carlos edged up to my side.
“Now what?” he asked.
“Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
From outside, the garage looked dark and cave-like. Inside, though, it was bright and—not what I would expect for a garage—clean. There were three bays, each two cars deep, and they were all full. There were pits in the floor under each car so mechanics could work on whatever you worked on under a car. (I don’t know, mufflers and stuff? So not a mechanic here.) Fluorescent lights buzzed overhead, though you could only hear that every so often when the banging of tools and that vweep vweep noise of pneumatic thingies died down.
The gray tile floor was slick and clean—I wondered how long it stayed that way—as I walked in and started peering over and under the cars, looking for Mr. Stratton. It’s weird how you can recognize a person just by seeing them from the wait down (and I know yes that sounds weird and kind of pervy but shut up), but from the jeans and the workboots of the man leaning sideways under the open hood of a car in the back, I could tell it was Billy’s dad.
Okay, not such a good idea to practically sneak up on a guy who’s into a car practically up to his waist. He banged his head on the hood.
“Ow! God damn—”
“Sorry, sorry!” I rushed forward. “Are you okay?”
Rubbing his head with one hand, Mr. Stratton looked up at me and dropped the wrench he was holding. On my foot.
Yeah, guess I deserved that, right?
I hadn’t even stopped hopping around, trying not to let my now-throbbing foot touch the ground, when Mr. Stratton hugged me hard.
“Of everyone who could’ve walked in here,” he said, “I never expected to see you again.”
“Me neither,” I said.
There’s not a lot left from that first draft, is there? As I’ve been going along, I’ve been cutting text in five or six-hundred-word swaths; more, in some cases. At one point, I realized most of chapter 4 was tedious introspection (pro tip: most introspection is tedious), so I cut it. The whole chapter. Boom. Gone.
The same problem came back in chapter 8, so I cut just about everything except two paragraphs, combined it with chapter 9, and now what was chapter 11 in the first draft is chapter 9 in the second draft and, well, let’s just say I’m glad word-processing programs exist to make keeping track of all these changes so much easier.
There was a lot of stuff that it seems I put down on the page just because I had to get it clear in my own head, but it was—let’s not mince words—dead boring when I reread it. And if the writer’s bored reading it, imagine how the reader would feel. So cut it. Still need something in that empty space? Then write something different. Figure out what would make it more complicated for your characters, and that’ll probably be more interesting for the reader too.
I have no idea if I’ve managed to do that, and I know that this section will probably change further before I’m completely satisfied with it. What I know for sure is that I don’t miss the parts I cut.