I am 40,000 words into the first pass edit of The Fifth House, which is the sequel to The Only City Left. (Sign up for my newsletter to be notified when The Fifth House is released!) For this first pass, I am looking at the structure of the story as a whole, from where the chapter breaks are, to character arcs through the book, to where certain scenes need to fall in relation to one another. More detailed edits will have to wait for the second pass.
Already I have pushed back the introduction of one character and relegated her to a smaller role in the book, because she was fighting for attention in an already-crowded novel. That change allowed me to cut down the length of the first chapter she appeared in, but of course this also requires cascading changes throughout the rest of the book. In the end, I think it will be worth it, though. Plus, any character I cut like this usually shows up again, whether in a short story or another work altogether.
I should mention that I have two point-of-view characters in Book Two, as opposed to only Allin in Book One, and they switch off chapters. This is done to expand the story possibilities in this book, and to have the action be more wide-ranging while still allowing me to tell the big-picture story I want to tell. Reading through my draft, I realized that the second character was sort of defined by her relationship to Allin. Since she should be as important a character as Allin, I wrote an entirely new introduction chapter for her, and I think this makes the story flow much more smoothly.
Finally, when I wrote this draft, I was more concerned with getting the ideas out than making the chapters the perfect length as I went. This meant that some of my “chapters” were 4000, 5000, even 7000 words long, whereas my preferred chapter length is about 2500 words. Breaking the chapters down to that size is complicated by my dual-narrator approach, but it’s a challenge I’m having fun tackling.
So in the first third of the draft, I have cut chunks of exposition, removed a character, added in a new chapter, and cut the existing chapters into smaller, more manageable pieces. Not bad for week one of edits!
Photo credit: [44/365] I am Jack, hear me lumber! by Pascal.