Two Parallel Chapters – the logistics of perfecting a scene
I think non-writers would be surprised at how many words are cut from a novel. I won’t say wasted, because I do think that practicing wordsmithing – even if the practice never sees the light of day – is ever a waste.
But that isn’t to say that writers happily put down words that they know will be deleted later. Writing a novel takes long enough, and can be frustrating enough, that I don’t know many authors who spend hours hashing out things they plan on deleting.
(Though we do often spend hours and thousands of words worldbuilding and creating background that you only get hints of in the novel!)
Which is why I really hesitated recently when I realized most of the chapter I’d just written might work better from a different POV. Might.
The chapter before had gone on long. Longer than an average chapter for the novel, and very long considering I was writing the height of climactic, action filled events. There is something disconcerting, and draining, about tons of action tied with life threatening situations carried out over pages and pages. But that is a topic for a different blog post!
I could probably salvage most of the chapter with some heavy editing, maybe slim it down to where it didn’t make the contents feel unwieldy. But it dawned on me that I could also cut the chapter in half and switch POVs – basically adding a chapter to the book.
THAT isn’t so unusual for me. I frequently add, subtract, and reorganize the climax chapters, as I’ve written about before. But I don’t usually waffle between which character’s view of an event would be better. I certainly don’t usually push aside the grudging reluctance to waste time on something I’m not sure will work or improve what is already there just to ‘give it a try.’
But this time I did.
As far as writing experiments go, this one will take a while to decide if it was worthwhile. Because I still don’t know. I like elements of both chapters. The long one has an immediacy because the character is very much in the thick of it (why I chose that POV in the first place!). But the new chapter gives a wider overview of a badly deteriorating battle that isn’t in the long chapter. They are both valid. Ack.
My guess is that I’ll keep both, editing the long chapter to something more concise and doing my best to capture the immediacy, while keeping the new and unplanned chapter following to both break the pacing and provide the larger view of compounding problems.
So I’m glad I added the extra chapter. I like what I’ve gained, even though I now have around 3000 words to cut. Oddly writing is not a linear activity. Reading might make you think it is. But I’ve written scenes chapters ahead of where I was at writing-wise, knowing that the story would get me there eventually. And now I’ve backed up to change perspective on events that I’ve already written about, seeking the best way to tell the story.
The final say on if it I’ve done that successfully (and which version works better) will really be answered by beta readers, who might be given the shot with both versions if I can’t edit the long one down. That is the one benefit to the writing phase of a novel – I can ignore the flaws and questions, jotting them down to reflect upon when I switch gears to editing!
If you are a writer, have you ever written chapters of the same event from different perspectives or do you rewrite scenes to find the best POV?