When is a Book Like an Elephant?

You have heard the old joke, I’m sure, about the sculptor who was explaining how easy it is to make a statue of an elephant. “Just take a block of marble and chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.”

That’s what I just did with “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter,” and boy, that is one pretty pachyderm!

As I said earlier this week, I had been looking at my manuscript with such a close-in view that I was losing sight of the big picture. When I stepped back, I realized I had some problems with the flow of the story. There were places – sometimes a few sentences or paragraphs, in one place a whole chapter, that didn’t advance the story. They were fine, interesting, had some nice bits. But “fine” is the enemy of “great.” They were nice pieces of marble, but they weren’t really part of the elephant I was trying to sculpt.

So Tori and I spent three days making one last pass, going over the manuscript with a sledge hammer rather than a scalpel. I’m very happy with the results.

Two whole chapters came out, chapters that didn’t advance the story at all. A total of 5,000 words. Almost 7 percent of the book. What’s left is leaner, tighter, and much more satisfying. The story – the STORY – comes through better.

At one point Tori complimented me on being so open to suggestions and questions, even at this late date. She was a little surprised I wasn’t arguing over a word here or a whole scene there. I told her, “It’s not about me. It’s about the story.”

I’d rather readers get excited by and remember the characters and what they do, and completely forget me. I don’t want people to read it and think, “Wow! That John Baur sure writes a nice sentence and interesting scenes.” Hell no! Ideally, the author should completely disappear. I want them to put it down, maybe sigh, then say, “Great story! Wish it just went on and on! I want to spend more time with Chrissie!”

Say that again – It’s not about me. It’s about the story.

Note: The ebook will be available online this weekend, the trade paperback early next week. And I’ll begin taking orders for the one-time only hardcover soon after.

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