I decided to take the plunge. I was going to chop a plot thread out of AAM so the story would fit in the contest word length restrictions. I saved my old version and set up a copy for me to modify.
Stories are like woven cloth. Each plot thread is woven into the entire story. So if I decide to cut a character or a side-theme, I have to go through the whole book, chopping out the references to it. This leaves gaping holes and sometimes it looks like the whole story is going to unravel. Everywhere I chop, I have to readjust the whole scene to keep the flow. It's a rather ticklish procedure.
Over the dinner table, I mentioned that I was chopping a sub-plot. My younger sister protested loudly (she hasn't read it, but I previously told her the general idea). Then my mom (who also hasn't read it) offered to read it and tell me what she thought could and couldn't be chopped. I thought this was a silly idea -- I had already read it myself and chosen what seemed to be the best option. Having her read the old version just before I changed everything was a waste of time.
But I shrugged and said she could read it if she wanted. She promptly sat down at the computer and told me I could wash dishes while she read it.
I washed a few dishes and then peeked in the next room to check on her. Then I washed a few more. I don't know if any of the rest of you do this, but I have a hard time not pacing the floor when somebody is reading my story. Sometimes I will go to the other end of the house where I can pace without disturbing them. I pretend to be quite calm and nonchalant -- sure, you can read my story -- but my fidgets say otherwise.
There weren't many dishes to do, and I was all done long before she was. I poked my head into the room. She looked so serious and intent. Was it that bad? I stepped closer, looking over her shoulder. If she stopped now, she will have stopped before the major plot changes occur. Then maybe I can convince her to just wait until I am done. And I'll give her a chance to get out of reading the whole thing if she's not enjoying it.
But when I offered, she got rid of me in a hurry. It seems that she was deeply involved in the story, couldn't wait to see what happened next, and didn't want to be disturbed.
I went from worried to elated. Word restrictions aside, this was a good sign indeed. If my mom is interested, there is a good chance you guys will enjoy it, too. And if there is anything an author likes to hear, it is that, when she wrote something she liked, then other people liked it, too.
But I still couldn't stop pacing. So I went outside for a while.
When I came in, she had finished. And she told me that I could not chop the plot thread that I intended to. Absolutely not. I need to find something else.
So we did. I didn't think it was possible, but we found a way to shrink the story without losing any major plot pieces. Which means: if AAM ends up in next year's collection and you like it, then you have my mom to thank for all the included plot threads. ;)
[The title of this post references a previous post of mine, which you can go back and read to figure out what I'm talking about.]