Trusting My Readers

by wjw on October 19, 2012

I’ve been working on Cat Island, the next of the old seas stories I plan to release in ebook formats.  While I’ve generally been pleasantly surprised to read my earlier works, this is the first of the re-issues that have made me want to go through the book with a machete.  So that’s what I’m doing.

I found the first forty or fifty pages to be solid exposition, in which I catch the reader up on my main character’s history, his past naval commands, his battles, and his love life.  I also talk about his family, his crew, his mission, and his views on the political situation, both in Washington and in the Navy.

Then the scene shifts to New Orleans just before the British invasion, where I swat the reader with a fistful of new characters, some of whose histories I relate in detail.

Reading it, after all these years, I felt as if my younger self had just dropped an unabridged dictionary on my head.   A mass of vines and weeds and tumorous growths had attached themselves to my story, and were choking it to death.

So I’ve now got out my weed killer and my machete, and I’m doing combat with my own work, trying to liberate the story from the mass of clutter attached to it.

I have to wonder what I was thinking, writing it that way.  Probably I wasn’t thinking at all.  Probably I was just trying to cram everything I knew into the story, so that everything would be absolutely clear.

I was a new writer, and I was insecure.  I wasn’t trusting my reader to find his own path into the work, I was running down the path ahead of him, lighting the way not with a flashlight but with a 40,000-watt searchlight.

Here you will feel this, I say.  Here you will understand that.

Well, the hell with that!  My readers are smart enough to work out things on their own!

I’ve lightened the book by three or four thousand words in the first couple chapters, which should kick the reader into the story with greater momentum, and I’ve removed a lot of asides and redundancies, which should make it read faster.

Stand by.  Cat Island will be on your doorstep shortly.


John F. MacMichael October 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

Waiting and anticipating!

By the way, it sounds like you are being very smart in your editing of the book. Having just read the first two in the series and been left with a classic cliff hanger at the end of the second, I would have been very unhappy to have to wade thru forty odd pages just to get back to the point were the story broke off.

TJIC October 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm

> lighting the way not with a flashlight but with a 40,000-watt searchlight.

I read this first as “lighting the way not with a flashlight but with a 40,000-WORD searchlight”.

Frankly, I prefer my mis-reading! 😉

Ralf The Dog. October 24, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Mr. Williams, STOP IT! STOP IT NOW!!!

Every time I am getting close to a project deadline and have no free time, you publish another book. It would not be a problem if the books were bad, however, you keep republishing cool stuff.

If you must republish your work, the least you could do is mess it up so I don’t feel so bad about reading them late.

(Perhaps, a nice story about a man who takes a giant hot air balloon to the moon. His initial plan is to hold his breath the entire way, however, that does not work, so he put’s a fish bowl on his head. While he survives, this turns him into a fishman. When he comes back to Earth, he lands in NYC and becomes a half human, half fish superhero…)

wjw October 25, 2012 at 6:15 am

What an awesome story! I’m going to run right out, right it, and post it in a day or two for everyone to read!

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