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Editing: The Toughest Job an Author Has to Do

A reader asks:

So here is my question:

I wrote a contemporary romance novel. In the first part of the book, the main character talks about her childhood in Russian in 80’s/90’s (mainly my life). She says a lot (about 5,000 words about her childhood experience).
My beta readers (age early 30s to 60’s) all loved that part. They said they were shocked to learn about life behind an iron curtain.

I cannot decide if I want to remove it or not. It’s 5000 words that can bring the reader closer to the middle of the book where things really get interesting. And for a contemporary romance is it too much talk about a childhood of the main character?

What would you advice me to do?
My guess is that you know exactly what you need to do, you’re just afraid to do it.
Editing is by far the toughest job an author has to do. In comparison, the months spending writing the book are a breeze, but it’s in the editing that the authors are separated from the writers. This is where you really dig in and write the book. It’s where you sometimes pull out the words you thought you loved the most, it’s also sometimes when you realize the book you wrote isn’t really supposed to be the book you are to write and you start over.
No one can tell you how to edit your book. You can take all the advice you want, but in the end, you have to have the vision yourself. My question to you is do your readers love this material because it’s interesting or because it truly adds to the book? You also ask whether it’s too much for a contemporary romance. If you’re really a contemporary romance writer I think you know that the answer is yes. But the real question you should be asking is whether or not this book is supposed to be a contemporary romance. Is it possible that it’s not the first 5,000 words that need to go, but the last 75,000? Could it be that this book should really be a story about a woman’s experience in Russia?
The hardest part about editing isn’t knowing where to add a comma, it’s knowing when the course of your journey has changed and it’s listening to your heart and what you want and not to the many voices of others (unless they set off a lightbulb that makes total sense).

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2 comments

  1. I wrote the greatest prologue in the world. It had it all. A wonderful 20 pages. Lots and lots of amazing words telling the beautiful back story of my amazing character.

    I had to cut the damn thing after the third draft.

    Editing sucks.

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