After much reading and rereading of my multi-rejected novel, I realised it was time to work out exactly what I wanted to do. Give up? Or punish myself further?
Before deciding, I combed through it for the umpteenth time, and gave it my most critical eye yet. There was one particular chapter in the first quarter that, in my mind, was the best I’d ever written. Everything about it seemed to shine: pace, character, world building, description; only to deliver a surprising twist at the end.
I loved this chapter so much, but it was at odds with the remainder of the novel. In other words, it was exceedingly pretty and a lot of fun, but failed to do anything to progress the plot. Was this a “darling”? I asked myself. Should I murder it in the way that has often been advised to aspiring novelists like myself?
This chapter has to go, I decided. It obviously didn’t fit. Nevertheless, the thought of losing it made me not only sad, but increasingly apprehensive. Why discard something I loved? What could I do to make it work? Desperate, I reached for my box of editing patches – looking for any number of ploys to make the remainder of the novel match up.
I got to work, popping in a symbol here, adding a few allusions there. I made my character remember parts of that fabulous scene in dialogue, in flashback…
All quite useless really. After several thousand wasted words, and yet another string of rejections, it was time to face the truth, regardless of how difficult or unpalatable.
That darling had to go!
Fortunately truths aren’t always as black and white as they seem. In the end, I kept that chapter; then deleted the remainder of the novel instead.
So now, I had around 5,000 words of what used to be a 110,000 word manuscript. A good many months later, when the new draft took shape far better than expected, that darling chapter functioned in all the ways it was supposed to.
Looking back, I have nothing to regret.