So Chapter 3 was especially difficult. I wrote it and rewrote it and burned it and beat myself over the head with it. Establishing pace is important. I tried to write a story with elements of suspense once and my agent at the time chided me for holding too much back. In The Dark Days there are elements of suspense, but I’m having to pick my battles…decide what’s worth holding back and what to give readers.
For example, we know Theo died, but not how. We know Charlie had something to do with it, but not those details. It’s a game, writing this story. In a normal process, I’d write it and fix my pacing issues. But here, I haven’t got that luxury. Every chapter needs to be compelling on its own and as part of the larger narrative.
You’ll also see that I decided to skip the summer. Moving ahead four months. I went back and forth over this decision but decided finally that the meat of the story is now. I think, looking back, I might have made Chapter 1 a prologue in another book. Maybe I could have skipped it altogether…which is a strange thing for an author to say about his own work. I honestly believe that I began in the correct place, that it was important to see Charlie at the moment of the accident. That way we have a context for everything we’re moving toward and everything we’re moving away from. But the 4 months between the accident and now I did decide to skip.
So here are the pages. This time they have scribbly hand-written notes because I was particularly frustrated. When I’m revising, sometimes I hand write whole sections, sometimes I actually throw away the pages (or delete the chapter) and start from scratch, using the chapter I’d written as a sort of dry run. It’s a scary but great tool. Because you get to keep the essence of the chapter without being tied down to any particular scene or passage. Some of my best writing came from deleting entire chunks of stuff.
Later this week I’ll post more about this chapter. Why the structure here felt important to me and why I used my third chapter to focus on just one day.