More Things I’ve Learned
As most of you know, I had to rewrite The Frenchman. Well, I consider it a rewrite because…well, I had to write a whole new 50K words, but my editor said it’s not really a rewrite because the characters were there, the conflict was there…but I hadn’t executed it properly.
I had saved some big secrets until the end, and ultimately the thing that was making my MS interesting was what the secrets were. However, I was cheating the reader out of real character development by doing that. I didn’t see it that way at the time, of course, but having gone through and done it with those revelations up front, part of the characters from page one, I see it now.
What happened was, we weren’t getting to the crux of the conflict until the end of the book. And that was wrong. I do think that in this case, it took me a rewrite to get me to understand what the MS was truly about, what the conflicts really were. I had to get a draft down to I could peel back everything that was unnecessary and get down to the heart of the MS, to take it back down to the characters and their conflicts.
I have a little list of things I’ve learned over the past year. These are things that are helpful for me, and I hope will be helpful for you.
1. Keep it character driven. Don’t let the plot do the driving, put your characters in charge. Say you want your heroine to get on a plane with the hero, but she’s not the kind of girl to go off with a man she doesn’t know…so you have her do it anyway, that’s putting the plot in charge. She’s violating who she is to follow a road map you the author has laid out, that doesn’t necessarily ring true for the person you’ve created.
2. Keep impact in mind. When you do have a revelation for a character to make, or similar, make sure it’s revealed to the reader in a way that has the most impact. Is it more impacting to have the character make the revelation to the reader in her own thoughts, or is it better for us to find out the extent of the heroine’s issues along with the hero?
3. What is it really about? Is it about learning to trust? The power of love? Redemption? This is the issue I run into a lot of times: What story am I really trying to tell? What are the core themes? And with a more complicated book, I’ve had to rewrite them to discover what the core truth of the story really is. If I can figure this out BEFORE writing the whole MS it saves me a lot of grief, because it helps me keep my focus, and that helps the story maintain its focus!
4. Where to your characters begin, and where will they end? What do you need your characters to learn over the course of the MS? They need to have an arc. They need to have an internal conflict that is sorted out over the course of the story. This means learning, growing, changing. If your hero is a reclusive tycoon closed off to love, he needs to go on a journey to open up his heart, and ideally, it will be the heroine who helps him, and even more ideally, the journey she takes him on will also advance HER journey.
So say we have Reclusive Tycoon who is closed off to love, and the heroine is afraid of sharing herself with anyone for fear of being rejected. But she has to give of herself to draw him out, and then both of them find themselves opening up to each other. But then one of them, say the hero, can’t handle it and he pulls back, but the heroine stands firm, revealing her love, her heart, despite her fear of rejection. Because she isn’t afraid anymore.
Anyway, maybe something better than that but that’s my example to sort of illustrate what I’m talking about.
5. I would never go back to the original version of an MS. The revised versions, the rewritten versions, are always stronger than the original. Always. And no matter how perfect I think what I’ve done is, revisions, or even a rewrite, have always made it better. Doesn’t mean a revision letter doesn’t hurt, but I know why I need to do them, and I can even be excited for the chance to make my MS the best I can make it.
So that’s what I’ve learned. Some of it. 🙂 Have you learned anything brilliant this year? Share it with me. I always want to learn!
Oh, and Merry Christmas! 😀