Saying Goodbye To A Chapter

I cut my first chapter earlier this week. Chapter Twelve. Of all the chapters, it happened to be one shortly before the middle of the novel. There’s something weird about that, I think. There must be.

But, frankly, it’s what I’ve now termed ‘Exposition chapter’, mostly through dialogue. Yuh. It had to go. And it’s taken me drafts to notice its uselessness. Oh dear!


I’d say having a Critique Partner has helped immensely. Mine noted that a couple of my previous chapters have moved the story along by words, rather than actions. Sometimes helpful; not often.

The two that I had, in fact, I justified (to myself and to her) because they were leading up to the Big Dramatic Plot Device. And, in ‘When the Clock Broke…’, because Aidelle is ‘stuck’ (for want of a better word), she has little action to do, but talk. Yet…there was something more needed in chapter twelve. When I read it through, there was no spark. That alarmed me.

Anyway, in eleven, after said Big Plot Device, I thought this got the story moving again. I was wrong. In steps twelve, with its exposing dialogue and less-than-witty points about philosophy. It’s one of those chapters that tries to pick up on tension and fails to maintain said ‘stakes’ throughout, until a page to its end. And then it resolves it. If you’re a writer, you’ll know exactly what I mean by this.

So, that gave me three good reasons, along with ‘it sucks’, to cut chapter twelve:

1. It doesn’t add anything action-wise that might take the plot along

2. It doesn’t reiterate stakes well

3. The characters are acting way too melodramatic for what has been happening.


Now, it becomes a case of what to keep and what to destroy. I use present tense because, although I have made the decision to remove the chapter, this will certainly be an ongoing process.

If I’m being totally honest with the writer part of my personalities, I’m not totally sure what it is necessary to throw and what would be best to keep. Part of the chapter is important – ironically – for its exposition about one of the characters, which can only be explained through the sitting-down-and-talking approach. So that stays.

On the other hand, as I implied above, exposition can become too much. If my chapter twelve is turning on itself and swamping the reader with exposition, I will have to cut said problems. Everything may add or it may not.

I think the hardest part about editing is the not knowing: the not understanding when to stop being the author and when to let one’s reader-side cut in with a snarky comment. I don’t like the thought that I could be cutting the best part of the chapter, just because I myself am not livened by it any more.

So. That is my task this week. I’m cutting a chapter, idea by idea.

4 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye To A Chapter

  1. I think it’s important to be able to cut away when required. Even if something crucial is in that chapter can that be placed somewhere else? Happy writing 🙂

    1. I agree. I am intending to try and move some of the exposition elsewhere, but then some of it has to stay in one place – because it makes sense temporally.

  2. That is indeed the hardest part of being a writer – cutting something off. I always feel as though I’m cutting off a limb, mainly because I know how much effort went into those precious pages. But what I reckon is a good idea is to temporarily cut the entire chapter away, then come back to read it later (or asking someone who has yet to read it) to see if the novel makes sense without it being there at all. Happy writing though 🙂

    1. Yeah, that’s exactl why I find editing so difficult: I remember doing the bare writing down, so there’s some emotion memory as well as just words on a page. Th cutting off the limb simile may be macabre, but I think it’s spot on!
      What I certainly know is that I need a last a little of the chapter there, because the story wouldn’t make sense without it (the flaw of having an exposition-y chapter…) But you’re right; there are bits that may be pointless.

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