I’m getting ready to start querying on an old project of mine, that I still love but never did anything with. So I recently went through it with a fine-tooth comb, taking out every extraneous “that” and “she felt” and “had been” and all of those other verbal fillers that are so easy to put in but apparently scream “amateur”. (In fact, since reading about this in several different places, I’m obsessed with these words and find myself counting them in books I read. Which proves it-there are very few “that”s in professionally edited books.)
“That” removes us from the action. “S/he felt” removes us from the action-would you rather read, “His hands slid down her back” or “she felt his hands slide down her back”? See what I mean? It’s actually worse when it comes to things like “she felt herself falling” instead of “She fell”.
Anyway. This isn’t about minor edits. It’s about the dread certainty growing in my very soul (not “the dread certainty that I feel growing in my very soul”) that I’m going to lose like six pages of Chapter One. Because, although it’s not backstory, it’s backstory. It’s exposition. Nothing’s happening.
I can reorganize things a bit, I think, and fit in some of it in the middle of the action. But I’m afraid I’m not going to get it all in, thus losing not only My Genius Words (HA!) but words from the all-important word count/page count. My chapters run about 25 pages each (standard format). Without this, I’ll have a Chap One that’s considerably shorter-so short I may have to turn it into a prologue. I don’t wanna turn it into a prologue! This book actually had a prologue in the beginning, and a damn fine one too, filled with cold-blooded murder and the terror of little children. I loved it. But I excised it, as ruthlessly as a dermatologist removing a cancerous mole, because it stepped on my big Hero’s Motivation Revealed moment later in the book.
Plus, Prologues are pretty rare and I think they’re a harder sell. (I adore epilogues, though, and get pissed when I don’t get them in my romances. I want to see the H/h again, three years later, with a kid or two and still all happy.)
My point is, I think I’m going to ose some of my wonderful, precious words. Just so, you know, something actually happens in the first five pages. Sigh.