So, I've fallen at the first hurdle. Failed to blog yesterday as I spent the evening editing a short story for a friend. A very good short story, I'm pleased to say, and one which needed only a tweak here and there rather than some kind of root and branch hacking.
Anyway, the rewriting. I started yesterday morning with a huge brick of 412 typescript pages sitting on the dining room table. The structural element of the rewrite is going to consist, largely, of deciding what elements of the first 75 pages are really essential and deciding how to weave them in elsewhere in a felicitous manner.
Reading those first 75 pages again, I recalled a recent post on Nicola Morgan's blog that contained this advice on editing:
Shorten chapters, unless they are already stupidly short. Alter the places where they begin and end so that they usually end mid-action. Give every chapter a knife-edge beginning and ending. Do not let your reader stop reading.
Remove much more description than you want to.
Ditto with back-story, philosophy, scene setting and world building. Just because you know it, doesn't mean the reader needs it. Think iceberg.
Remove at least two of the first five chapters. Just do it. See what happens.
Remove all your favourite sentences.
Now, for me, some of those are a bit extreme. The last one, specifically. But, in general, I take her point. Self-indulgent writing is no good to anybody and will just be flicked past, if the book is read at all.
My chapters are already pretty short but, as she advises, I'm not sure all of the first six need to be there. Ms Morgan would undoubtedly dismiss chunks of them as world building/back story/scene setting. Can I remove two? Yes, though bits of them will need to turn up elsewhere.
She's right about description. I like a well-turned phrase as much as (probably more than) the next reader but if the description goes on too long, however exquisite it is, I find myself skipping to the next salient bit. So I've always favoured the 'key but telling details' in terms of description. Less is very definitely more.
So, what do I have at the end of my first day of reworking?
Five paperclipped chapters with bits of text highlighted and 'put this in when/after/before...'
A completely reworked first chapter.
A mild feeling of having ended up with a ball of string composed of five different strands which I now have to untangle into a single thread.
As AL Kennedy would say, Onwards!
Later: Not sure why the font changes halfway through that post - sorry!