Story Cruft and Hindsight

When I was prepping Chapter 26 of Pay Me, Bug! for posting, I remembered that it was originally a much longer chapter. I cut a fairly lengthy piece out of the middle of this chapter, which involved the process Grif went through to get his original face “scanned and saved” before his appearance was altered, so they’d be able to put it back just right.

I remember laughing when I cut it, because this is a SPACE OPERA, and one of the fun things about sciency fictiony stories is that you read about COOL GADGETS and NIFTY GIZMOS with FIDDLY BITS to them… and it was the description of the cool gadget doing nifty gizmo things, combined with the fiddling of the bits, that was taken out.

But the truth is the chapter over all isn’t one of the stronger ones, it’s sort of prep work for the next act of the story (which starts in the next installment) and all the cool gadget did was unnecessarily pad the chapter.

So last night when I thought back on the rationale that led me to cut that piece out, I suddenly realized that I didn’t actually need this chapter at all. Everything addressed in here could have been covered in about four or five paragraphs sprinkled throughout the next chapter and it would have worked just fine. But at the time I wrote it I had a checklist of things I wanted to make sure I’d resolved before “moving on to the next bit” so I put them here.

When I wrote the first draft of PMB! it was during a time when I was fighting against a near-obsessive urge to describe every step of the way of anything that happened in the story — so instead of “cutting” from one location to the next I felt a need to describe the process of traveling from one scene to the next. Some of that isn’t bad if it adds a little color to the world, but doing that all the time really weighs down a story and can grind it to a halt. A lot of that was recognized and kiboshed while I was writing it the first time, but some still slipped through and had to be reworked later. This chapter is like that (though it’s less so than it originally was.)

If I had an editor, the editor very likely would have pointed that out to me from the start. One of the disadvantages of doing things the hard way.

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