backstory, chapters, editing

Chapter Lengths & Editing

I experienced a glorious day off yesterday. I donned my sweats, lit a yummy smelling candle, poured a Diet DP into a pretty glass, and cuddled with my laptop in my cozy chair. Pure bliss. A little piece of heaven. And oh, I was productive.

I took my 13 page First Chapter and my 4 page Second Chapter and combined them. I took the crits I had received recently and deleted, added, cut, and pasted to my heart’s delight. I used that delete button ruthlessly, cutting out the backstory that weighed my chapters down. Well, not all of it, but a lot of it!
I debated combining my first two chapters because I really liked the ending line of the first chapter. It is a real “hook”. But with the second chapter only 4 pages long, I felt I needed to combine them. I could have combined the second and third chapter, but I am getting these chapters ready for some contests and thought it’d be good to have the heroine and hero both show up in the first chapter.
What would you do? Combine and mess up your hook? Or let it be and have uneven chapters? Do chapter lengths matter? What is the an average chapter length anyway?
Did I give you enough questions to choose from?

backstory, editing

The Dump

We’ve all been to the dump. It’s a smelly place, full of stuff nobody wants. Sure it was useful at some point in time, but not any more.

In writing we’ve all heard about the dreaded backstory dump. It is the place where you unload all the background information you think the reader needs to know in order to understand the story.

Dumping is a huge No-No in the Land of Writing.

I had someone read through my first chapter and I was told there were concerns regarding some of my dumping. The cool thing was this person proceeded to explain how I could make my story better. They sent me an email with examples of “before and after” paragraphs – first with backstory and then inserting snippets of backstory in dialogue.

Ding-A-Ding-Ding! Light-bulb-flash!!!!!

Ahhhh, so THAT’s how it’s done!

I was so excited about taking this first chapter of mine and seeing if I could delete my dump and intersperse it throughout, usually some dialogue and inner-monologue. I also received another critique that echoed and confirmed my dumping problem. I was ready to use that delete button and get the job done.

Alas, I didn’t get to this chapter transformation this weekend like I wanted AND planned. My mom called and was giving us their king-sized bed. (they were upgrading!) Oh my goodness! We drove to the neighboring town of Granbury, an hour away, and picked up our wonderful-ly comfortable and LARGE bed! I spent the rest of the day cleaning and rearranging furniture, scattering the dust far and wide.

But oh, it was nice to fall into that big bed and have some elbow room! I felt like we were staying in a hotel, because the only time we ever sleep in king-size beds is when we travel! lol

So it is with great excitement that I begin to edit and rearrange this backstory problem of mine tonight. Wish me luck!

My question of the day: Have you tackled the problem of backstory dumping? Is it a problem with each and every manuscript? Or have you learned to spread it out in creative and unique ways?