Last week I spoke to an adolescent lit class at the local university. This is something I do each semester. They’ve always read one of my books beforehand, so that’s nice, but this session was especially fun as each student had a question ready. After the formal session I was chatting with them one on one as I signed books, and a woman wanted to know about the ending of the novel they’d all read, Come in from the Cold. “Why did you just jump to the end,” she said. “Suddenly they were married.”
I didn’t lose a beat, I’m proud to say. I said, “I thought I’d already told the reader all she needed to know to make the leap.” That answer seemed to make sense to the student and she said yes, she guessed she had known enough to make the leap.
I’m now in editing mode of a rough draft. I’m sifting through the scenes and extended dialogue asking of each passage, Is this part necessary? What does the reader need to know?
Those aren’t questions that can be asked too early in the process. And they have to be asked more than once as the revising reveals the real story. But oh dear, such good stuff is disappearing. What fun I had coming up with it. The reader will never see any of it, but during the long hard slog that’s a first draft at least I amused myself. Otherwise, why write?