Return of the Ghost Chapter

Posted: October 14, 2015 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

Woman profile cut in crumpled paper

So what had happened was …

My daughter and I co-wrote a middle grade fantasy novel, which we called The Last Princess.  It turned out rather well, I think. I can say this, because we sent it to an agent we both quite like, and she asked us to make some revisions and send it back. This is very good, in case you were wondering.

Among the things she suggested was to slow down the pacing of the lead-up to the climax, because it came off as rushed.  So as I worked through the manuscript making revisions and getting closer to the climax, I struggled to find any definitive way to slow down the scenes in question.  I didn’t just want to pad them with filler, and wasn’t really any action missing that I could put in.

The day I was going to sit down and work on the offending chapter I hit upon the solution.  The night before the climactic battle, the hero sits in her room and contemplates giving up in her fight with the villain.  She has a revelation which changes her whole character, and she goes on to triumph.  This was originally a rather short scene — rushed, as the agent pointed out. But I hit upon the idea of having her mother check on her and offer some perspective, which informs the hero’s decision after her mother leaves.  The decision is still the hero’s, but now there is this lovely mother/daughter bonding scene and we get some new growth in their relationship.  I quickly wrote down about a dozen little moments and snippets of dialogue, which I then shuffled into a whole new chapter, ending with a revised version of that original scene.

It wasn’t until I sat down and rolled up my sleeves to write the new chapter that I realized this was the ghost of a scene we had cut from the story a year ago when we got to this point in our original draft.

Without going into too many boring details, we had originally planned to have Mom tell the hero a crucial missing bit of information, which would make the hero changer her mind about giving up.  But we decided it would make the hero stronger if she found the strength within herself to go on, then learned this missing bit of information after she triumphs — as a kind of bonus Aha! moment.  In the new chapter, Mom never reveals the missing fact, but drops enough hints that when the truth is revealed after the battle, the reader will think, of course that was the case.

That is, if I did it right.  I think I did.  But this just goes to show the advice is sound: In writing never throw anything away.  You may find a use for it later.

  1. hellerj says:

    Dear John Berkowitz,

    I agree that writers should keep all drafts of their work. I often take old poems or prose works and revise them to improve the word choice, structure, dialogue, images, etc.

    Best wishes!

    Janet Ruth Heller
    Author of the poetry books Exodus (WordTech Editions, 2014), Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012) and Traffic Stop (Finishing Line Press, 2011), the scholarly book Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama (University of Missouri Press, 1990), the award-winning book for kids about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006), and the middle-grade book for kids The Passover Surprise (Fictive Press, 2015).
    My website is


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