Writing a novel is much like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. You’ve got lots of pieces laying around, whether they’re in an outline, written free form scribbled on a napkin or just floating around in your brain. You might start with an idea, or just a character. Maybe you only know you want to write something with a specific theme. Those little pieces have to come together to build the big picture that is your story.
When working on a puzzle we think may a piece fits somewhere but at second glance, it seems a bit off. The color might work but maybe the fit isn’t tight. You wouldn’t throw that puzzle piece away, would you? No! Without it you won’t have a complete image. Sometimes in the editing process we find better places for those pieces. Places where they fit snuggly and help make the clearest image for your reader.
When I was writing Heavyweight I originally had the story start differently. It wasn’t until I read it at a writing seminar that it was suggested to me that I change where the beginning started. I was able to rearrange things without cutting out what I thought was important information and it made the story much stronger. I really think it had a lot to do with selling my book to my publisher.
Yes there will be appropriate times to cut out information. We tend to add a lot of extras (especially in our early days of writing) that aren’t really necessary and will most likely slow down the flow of the story, but many times you will have beautifully penned prose that you can’t bear to lose. Most likely, with some rearranging of the pieces in editing, you can find the appropriate place for that section.
Don’t be afraid to move things around. If the beginning seems slow because you’re front loading the world building, break it up and add it as the story goes. You want to engage and hook the reader, not have them flipping ahead to see when the “real” story starts. Move those story pieces until you get the picture completed, each part fitting tightly with its neighboring parts, creating a seamless story.
When editing, do you just cut big parts or do you try to find new places in your story for them?