Anyway, last time I was here, I’d suffered a bit of a fall myself. I’d sent my latest manuscript, something I’ve been working on for about a year (not continuously), the first draft completed as part of NaNoWriMo in 2013. I was expecting changes. I really was. Because hey, that’s what a writer pays an editor for, right?
I wasn’t quite expecting the amount of changes I got. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts the editor loved (and some of those parts I really slaved over, so that’s good). But her take on my love-interest was, um, not what I wanted to project. So, I allowed myself a couple of days to sulk and feel sorry for myself, then I got back to work.
The revision has been pretty extensive. The manuscript as returned was about 92,000 words. My “cut” folder now has scenes totaling about 13,000 – but the overall count has stayed steady. Referencing what Kait said earlier this week, a lot of words have fallen away. I loved those words – especially one scene that was dear to me. But it no longer served the story. It had to go. And they’ve been replaced by better words (at least I hope so).
Lesson: Don’t be afraid to let stuff that doesn’t work fall away because it frees up space for things that do work and will make your story better.
As I read the editor’s comments, I was initially really hurt and dismayed at the perception of my love-interest (if you can have a secondary protagonist in a story, she’s it). I wanted her to be a smart, strong, capable woman who wanted a relationship, but wasn’t defined by that relationship. And she’s not afraid to stick up for what she believes in, even when it goes against the grain.
But that’s not how the editor saw her. The editor saw a petulant, manipulative child determined to get what she wanted at all costs.
Yeah. Not Good.
As I read and thought, I realized I’d fallen victim to not letting my character hurt enough, not pushing her down (as Pamela wrote about). I’d hidden her back-story, failed to uncover the wound that was making her do these apparently irrational things, and explain her driving need to be right. I hadn’t let her hurt enough on the page. Which meant I was denying her the opportunity to heal – for readers to root for her.
Lesson: Don’t be afraid to expose your character’s deepest fears because that’s what’s going to make the emotional connection work.
I’ve been at this rewrite/revision for two weeks. I’ve been asked, “Why are you letting this upset you so much?” And the answer, as Diane so poignantly said yesterday, is that I love these people. Okay, yeah, they came out of my brain. Technically, they don’t exist – not in flesh and blood. But they’re real to me. I’ve had short stories published with them, and readers have told me Jim and Sally are real to them. And just as I’d do anything to help the flesh-and-blood children I have, because I love them, I’m willing to do what needs to be done to help my characters. Even if that means another rewrite.
Lesson: Writing is hard work; to do it well, you have to fall in love with the story you are telling.
With fall in full swing here in southwestern Pennsylvania, it seems fitting to be where I am. This story was born in the fall (November). It is set in the fall (during the month of October), and it’s reaching it’s conclusion in the fall.
At least I really love fall.