I knew after my latest revision that two flashbacks were too close together. I wanted to turn at least one of them into a proper scene. However, if I did that, I would lose much of the tension and some rather nice cliff-hangers in the opening scenes. In the end, the lesser of the two evils seemed to be to leave the two flashbacks where they were.
Even so, I knew exactly what my critique group would say, let alone at a later date, if the novel gets that far, which comments an agent or an editor might make. And they would also say, quite rightly, that the chapter I submitted would be too long. They are probably right – especially as it is fourteen pages long – average for an adult book would be twelve. This is a teen / young adult / adult / crossover so that makes it seem even longer. Also, chapters are on average six pages long in this book.
When I consciously tried to alter the text, I couldn’t find a way to do it.
The trouble – or is it the joy? – with being a writer is that you never stop working. The project is with you all the time. You think about it while you are driving, while you are eating and apparently while you are sleeping – I actually woke up this morning with the answer at the top of my brain.
It seems to be part of our creative process that we walk away from the project and something – perhaps our subconscious - carries on working on it. Yesterday I did battle with my work email account, went to my choir practice and watched some television, pushing the project out of my mind. This morning, as I woke up and was still in that half-awake, half-asleep state, I thought of the answer.
I’ve chopped the long chapter up by dividing it into scenes. Each chapter heading is a person and a date. I’ve further divided the chapter by adding in times of day. One flashback has become an earlier scene but not one that compromises a cliff-hanger. The second flash-back is still there but comes now from an actual scene rather than from another flashback.
Flashbacks are all right, I think, as long as they’re not overdone. In this case, it was actually a character having a memory so it has some authenticity.