Reluctantly expanding a manuscript when instincts say cut

Over the last few days I have written and inserted three whole new chapters into my The Murder Plague manuscript and I’m somehow feeling uncomfortable about it.

I’m suffering that mood even though they’re pretty damn good chapters, they add quite a bit, and they slipped in quite nicely, as newly-numbered Chapters 12, 15 and 18, requiring almost no revisions upstream or downstream to make them work.

My Beta readers so far are saying The Murder Plague had inadequate character development for Drs. Mike Andrusek and Tim Crosby, and that there was a plot gap. These new chapters address those concerns. In new Chapter 12 Mike has an uncomfortable phone call with his parents and, through that, sheds more light on who he is and where he comes from. Chapter 15 has Tim dealing with his family, particularly with the revelation that his 13-year-old daughter  Cindy has a boyfriend whom everyone except Tim seemed to know about. In Chapter 18 Mike and Det. Marty Francisco confront the private detective Emily Sanchez, a scene I actually intended when I first created Emily back in Chapter 6, but just never got around to including. I guess the plot worked without that scene in my mind, but Beta disagrees.

Is Beta right? I’m committed now.

Yet it’s always been my experience, this far along in writing, that now is the time for trimming and tightening, not expansion. It just feels wrong somehow to create 30 whole new pages.

Not that I haven’t been adding here and there with other revisions. But all those additions have been spot specific. This setting needs more description. That scene needs more action. I’ve also been trimming here and there so those pretty much have been a wash.

Again, I’ve cheated no agents who’ve gotten queries and samples, because so far no one has requested or received any more than the first 10 chapters. And they’ve all rejected those. So it’s not a guilt thing.

There’s also the endless temptation that more might be better. My new Chapter 18, with Emily, is really good, one of my favorites now. Emily herself quickly developed, in that chapter, into a character I really like. It was a shame to have to kill her. But that’s what I do, I suppose. But whom else might I flesh out and kill? How much fun might that be for me and the readers?

That’s the temptation that must be fought. Expansion for the sake of expansion only leads to books where you say, “It was pretty good, but it could have been about 100 pages shorter.” Right?



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