What you say???? Simplify? You're mad. Mad, I tell you!
To write a great novel you must include complex and varied numbers of characters, multi-levelled layerings of themes, plot lines, and a world building of huge, momentous proportions. To make a story BIG - and don't we all want our stories to be big? - we need, well … MORE. Right?
Well, um, sometimes … not so much.
I'm living that 'not so much' right now with this revision. When this YA paranormal went out on sub a couple of years ago I got back one particular comment from an editor that really resonated with me - the plot was just too confusing for her. Too much of this and that just left her scratching her head and taking away her enjoyment of the characters and an idea that was pretty cool. Hmm, I thought, was it too much or had I just not executed it clearly enough? But when I dove back into the story again I realized I needed to focus on the strengths of the book - some great characters and the relationship between them and a neat hook that could work quite simply - without a lot of the backstory world-building I thought needed to be thrown in there.
So, instead of three 'organizations' involved in searching for a particular object, I've pared it down to one. I've removed a sub-plot about my main character wanting to attend a girls prep school and made her core desire just to get out of the dead-end town she's stuck in (which, of course, will be thwarted. Mwahahaa) I've pulled up one secondary character up front faster and made her more integral to the plot. I'm deepening the characters and their inter-relationships - my strength as a writer - and paring back the once convoluted plot to, hopefully, one strong main plot line with a couple of secondary plot lines that relate specifically and tie quite directly to the main plot.
Lesson learned? Making a book bigger doesn't mean making it overly complicated. Yes, have a main plot line that has a strong engine driving it forward, yes have those sub-plots be the oil and gas that help feed the engine. But don't make that main plot so convoluted readers will have to flip back and forth among chapters to try and keep what's happening straight in their minds. All that does is just stall the car and the passengers will get out before arriving at the destination.
It's a lesson I need to keep in mind: like in life, simplifying - de-cluttering, if you will - makes everything so much more clearer in the end.