It was about six weeks ago that I realized that my current work in progress (which I initially thought was totally brill') needed a major overhaul. My feedback from readers was pretty good--great from some. While my agent thought it had some positives, he thought it had too many negatives to get excited about. The problem was I had no idea what wasn't working and unfortunately he didn't give me a lot of guidance.
Understand that I'm really new to "authoring." I've only been writing novels in earnest since 2008. I've published 4. Two by a Big Six. Two as an indie. But neither in the suspense/thriller genre. Nothing even close. Comedy is my forte. Not suspense. Fortunately, my career experience has helped me develop a very complex and compelling plot that fits perfectly in the genre. But there's a difference between how something plays in your mind and how that vision conveys on paper. In my mind, I could read the book, see the movie. On paper, didn't quite grip me (or my agent) the same way.
For the first time in my short career, I had a problem and no idea about how to diagnose and fix it. And I felt like I didn't have the help I needed. Perhaps if I were best seller I would've had more help from my editor, but understand that as a mid-lister, you support network is limited. To add to the problem, this is the first time I wrote a book that wasn't accepted on the first draft. Everyone was used to me getting it right the first time...and I didn't this time. Tough pill to swallow. It was humbling. And eye-opening. But spreading my wings into new territory, I should've expected a learning curve. And I'm now growing as a writer because of it.
The first thing I did was begin reading a bunch of books. I needed to learn...something. I didn't know what, but I figured something would ring a bell if I hit the right points. I could've used a seminar. Some human feedback. But I just didn't have the time or financial means to afford the seminar I really NEEDED to take. So, to the bookstore I went. I found several books on craft. And also picked up a couple of best sellers in the genre. Each day I read and read and read. This went on for a couple of weeks, when finally it hit me. The answer. I discovered a solution. One book really helped hone me in on my issues. All of my issues--and trust me, there were many.
Writing a Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.
I would consider this a must-read book for every mid-list novelist. And for unpublished authors.
Don't get me wrong. Mr. Maaas doesn't give you the answers on a silver platter. But if you've have a clear and honest understanding of what your novel is and isn't (not what you THINK it is or isn't) then this will spark the ideas necessary to tighten up your work. I've blogged about finding the work's voice in another posting. Another key to solving the problems in this novel was understanding that each book has a voice and I had to find the right voice for this particular story. This series really.
So, finally, into the writing cave I went.
That's where I am now. Going through the painstaking process of rewriting this book sentence by sentence. Changing the pace, sentence structure, and the voice. Ugh. And I had A LOT of sentences. 95,000 words worth. I'm over half way done but sometimes I'd like to stick a pencil through my eye. However, difficult the journey, I've reconciled the fact that I'm investing the time now in order to make the rest of the series much easier to write. Now I know the story and plot elements as well as the voice. All I need to do in the next book is write.
So those are my lessons from the writing cave. Sometimes the answers to fixing your novel come faster if you put down your pen...and pick up a book.
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