A publisher has expressed interest in my novel, Heather Girl. They like the story and the primary characters; however, they feel that I have too many sub-plots and secondary characters that take away from the main focus of the novel. There are a couple of sub-plots and secondary characters that I have no trouble eliminating. There are others that I’m hesitant to lose.
I’ve been reading a book recommended by Mr. Larry Ellis, A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, by George Saunders. In the book, Saunders examines short stories of Russian authors so that writers may learn and hone their craft. Saunders just told me something that is helpful in evaluating Heather Girl. It is this:
Imagine we’re bouncers, roaming through Club Story, asking each part [of the story], “Excuse me, but why do you need to be in here?” In a perfect story, every part has a good answer. (“Well, uh, in my subtle way, I am routing energy to the heart of the story.”)
Our evolving, rather hard-ass model of a story says that every part of it should be there for a reason. The merely incidental (“this really happened” or “this was pretty cool” or “this got into the story and I couldn’t quite take it out again”) won’t cut it. Every part of the story should be able to withstand this level of scrutiny…
The second paragraph confirms what I think needs to be cut.
The first paragraph makes me hesitate on other parts, those that I believe are routing energy to the heart of the story.
It’s fun, this building of a complete story.
March 7, 2021 at 5:42 pm
Proud of you for publisher interest. Heather Girl is a good story and should be read by many.
Thinking about some novels I’ve read and trying to determine how some of the subplots advance the story. Is giving more depth to the title character’s personality considered a good reason? Who decides if the reason for it is good?
I’m slow and can’t quite determine why a line from The Boxer is the title. I feel so unsubtle.
March 7, 2021 at 5:58 pm
And those are the questions to be answered. I don’t know who ultimately decides. In one of the Russian stories, the students of Saunders initially thought much of the background was completely unnecessary. But upon further reflection, they decided it was.
The boxer was just in my head. No connection whatsoever.
March 7, 2021 at 6:19 pm
When you have answers, please educate us unwashed masses.
Lie- la- lie.
March 7, 2021 at 6:21 pm