Gut it Like a Fish

So, I just ripped the guts out of my first fifty pages. It needed to be done. I'd written them over two years ago and they were nowhere close to the lean, mean, fighting machine they should be.  They didn’t really represent what I now have to offer as a writer.

Did it hurt? Sort of. I wasn't as attached to some of it as I once was since I'd put distance and time between the story and me. Honestly, a lot of what I removed was just, "Look, I don't know how to start this, so here is everything you will ever need to know about the main character and six other people whom you will have a whole book to get to know."

And to think, I queried those pages for months before I came to the realization at the DFW Writers' Conference that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by sending out the weakest part of my book.

So I did something that I had never considered before: I redrafted. Blank page, baby. My first fifty pages became twenty-seven. I got the same stuff done, but way less boring.

I'm not a plotter, I'm a pantser. I only knew the end of my novel once I finished it, and that allowed me to ‘fix’ the beginning. I figured out what I needed and what I didn't. (Oh hey, a three paragraph tangent about a college the reader will never see? Yoink!)

I certainly don't think everyone should pick at, revise, and prod their manuscripts over and over again. No, no. Onward and upward. Working on another book and taking the lessons from the previous one is what enabled me to 'fix' my last one.

Sure, I still have to get it to my beta readers.   There is also the not-so-small matter of then sending it out to the nice agents who asked for it at the conference. But in the mean time, I'll keep writing my new novel. And then one after that. Who knows? In two years I may look back on my super tight first fifty pages and say, "Eh…it's not that great."

But that's the thing about writing, it evolves with the writer.

--Sally Hamilton, DFWWW member since 2009

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