The other day, one of my dear readers called me frantically to say that the first prologue I'd written perhaps a week ago and at his direction was much better than the revised one I'd just sent him and why why why did I make those changes?
After discussing it for a while, we moved on to the bulk of the book--the reason he'd been reading the revised prologue: I'd gotten stumped. Overwhelmed. Paralyzed.
(It happens that a plotted book is like woven fabric and that if you begin pulling out threads, or changing the positions of strands, or dis- or re-coloring them, the rest of the woven thing must change to accommodate. And the more you pull—say, in Chapter 1, two strands; in Chapter 2, three, etc.—the more tangle and unmanageable the thing becomes as you go deeper.
Thus, I'd gotten stumped and so begged him to read a half-finished, ugly book.)
In any case, one interesting result of note:
A character we both loved dearly changed over the course of the rewrite due to the single word, sniffed. In the early draft, this word had been paired with the adverb derisively, but in the later draft, I had deleted that word out of loathing for that part of speech. The problem was that Abigail Hunter sniffed often. And she used to sniff derisively often. Now, though, without that word, she was simply sniffing, had lost all her round haughtiness and had become a silly, thirteen-year-old girl, sniffing whenever she was teased. She was a horrible character!
All because I'd deleted a word. Abigail hadn't changed a bit, other than that word. But the transactional experience for my reader had changed. He hadn't gotten the association between the sniff and her characterization, and so had no access to her. He wasn't very happy about it, either.
And so I put it back, that useless part of speech.
Abigail sniffed derisively.