We encamped that night at Garion Danwsbrook.
And so began the saga that would become The Keeper of Tales. I mentioned a few weeks ago that what I first wrote evolved quite a bit through revisions. In fact, the first fifty pages are simply gone in what you’ll have the opportunity to read starting March 1, 2021.
How… how could you just chop off fifty pages?!
I mean, sure, if you watch deleted scenes from movies, you can usually see why they were cut. Maybe they didn’t move the story along. Maybe the acting was off. Maybe they just had to cut something for the sake of time. Cutting a single scene can make a lot of sense. Fifty pages, though? That’s a good chunk of a book to simply cease to exist!
And truthfully, a lot was lost when I cut those pages.
- One of the secondary characters in the novel is Sargon Tor. He rules over the mystical city of Chariis. He’s the oldest being that still lives except perhaps the Fallen Lord himself. Those first fifty pages delved fairly deeply into his character and lore. It let the readers really get to know him. Now, though, he’s talked about, but he doesn’t have the “oomph” that he would have otherwise. He’s not someone the reader has grown to know.
- And those fifty pages almost all took place in that central city of Chariis. That meant that the readers got to experience its grandeur in a way that the current draft simply lacks.
- The novel originally opened with a council of kings. Because of that, the reader learned the politics of this fantasy world first-hand. We got to see the kings distrusting each other and refusing to work together. Now we get that in telling, but we rarely get to see it.
- The first fifty pages also introduces our protagonist, Adal, and how he rules over his people. There was a lot of interplay between Adal and various members of his nation. Now we see very little of Adal with his own countrymen at all.
That seems like a lot to lose, doesn’t it? Is the book lesser because of it? Did I just cut out things we needed? Not really…
- Sargon Tor is a secondary character. Important to the narrative, sure, but he is not a main character. We don’t need to have those chapters about him to make the story stronger.
- We get to know the city of Chariis enough; we didn’t need to spend more time there.
- That council of kings that got cut? Imagine if Fellowship of the Ring began with the Council of Elrond. I wonder how many people would have made it through the Lord of the Rings if it began that way!
- And while Adal, our protagonist, is obviously an important character, his ruling isn’t the center of the story. His adventure is.
To sum up: The things that got cut are things that were simply not necessary for the story. They were all actually fairly strong scenes that told us a lot about the characters and the world, but there were stronger scenes in the book. And, let’s be honest: It’s better to just get to the story and cut past all the set-up as quickly as possible.
Because in revision I concentrated on making the central conflict stronger, I trimmed off things that didn’t matter to that story. A result is a stronger central narrative, a stronger main character, and hopefully a better overall experience for the reader.
There are a few scenes I really, really miss. For instance, Adal loves stories. In the first draft, he asks Sargon Tor to tell him a tale. The Sargon has been around for so long, everyone expects this incredibly lofty tale. But Sargon Tor has been around for so long he ends up telling a very savage story instead. A story from before the world was settled.
We lost some of that color, and Tor in particular is just not as strong a character. But, again, Tor isn’t a main character. He doesn’t need all that attention!
Maybe once the book’s out, if there’s a call for it, I’ll rewrite some of those opening scenes as stand-alone short stories that take place in the world. We’ll see.
But I want to encourage you: Leave some stuff on the cutting-room floor. Does your work in progress need that scene? Do we really need to know all that about this side character? Trim it down, and you might find a stronger story results. I know that’s what happened for me!