Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Major Changes - How Do I Know?

I finished the second draft of my current work-in-progress as I was fending off a cold. I didn't succeed with the cold, so I took a couple of days off to rest. That's one of the bonuses of being self-employed and an empty nester - I could nap, so I did.

Feeling better, I printed the first few chapters and started to read. As my twitter followers will already know, I suddenly realized that a new scene I'd written and put in Chapter Three should be the opening scene not just of that chapter, but of the book.

How did I come to this conclusion? My first impulse would be to say "I just felt it." However, I've taken a closer look at my "instinct" and here's what I concluded.

The energy of the scene in Chapter Three immediately made me sit up and take notice. I don't think the original opening scene is bad, it's just not so vibrant - and one thing I want right away is that energy, the sense that something's going to happen and it's going to be exciting.

The new scene was not the first from the heroine's point of view, but it was the first that shows her reacting with someone other than the hero. It's generally best to get the heroine and hero together ASAP, but they don't have to be physically together. She can be thinking about him, and so she is in the new scene, so moving it won't be a problem in that regard.

With my original first scene, I had noted that I'd have to do a lot more to set the scene. There are plenty of people who can write really wonderful descriptions, and description doesn't necessarily have to be static or boring (it's all about the verbs!), but it's not my best or most favorite part of writing. If I use the new scene, it's immediately easier to give a sense of the setting without a lot of description. A few key details should do.

The heroine of this romance is more Jane Eyre than Elizabeth Bennett - serious and intense, as compared to merry and cleverly witty (although my heroine can give as good as she gets when it comes to repartee). With a heroine like this, though, it can be more difficult to make her appealing to the reader. By starting in her point of view, and in that particular scene, that should be easier.

During my heroine's first actual meeting with the hero, my heroine does something that is quite uncharacteristic. The explanation was going to come after that action; by starting with the scene from Chapter Three, I'll give a hint of her motivation first, so the action should consequently seem more believable.

So often, my writing decisions are made more with doubt and hope than complete certainty. But not this time. Moving that scene is absolutely the right thing to do and regardless of the work involved in revising, I'm thrilled!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Ideas are easy

"Ideas, in a sense, are overrated. Of course, you need good ones, but at this point in our supersaturated culture, precious few are so novel that nobody else has ever thought of them before. It's really about where you take the idea, and how committed you are to solving the endless problems that come up in the execution." - Hugo Lindgren, "Be Wrong as Fast as You Can", New York Times Magazine, Jan. 6, 2013 (italics mine)

Writers get asked where they get their ideas all the time.  I confess I find this rather frustrating, because it implies that once you've got an idea for a story, the hard part's over.

I wish.

As Mr. Lindgren notes, you still have to develop the idea as uniquely as you can, as well as deal with the "endless problems" that come up as you write. For instance, a dramatic plot twist that sounded cool when you first got the idea eventually backs  your characters into a corner with no way out (at least, not one that's believable). Or something appears in dialogue from you-don't-know-where-in-your-subconscious that takes your character in a new, exciting direction but that also requires a major rewrite to earlier chapters. And those are just two of the possibilities.

To put it another way, ideas are easy, it's the writing that's hard.

But to quote from A League of Their Own, "It's the hard that makes it great." Because when you've made it from initial idea to finished novel or story or article, it's all yours, baby. You did it, and you alone.  You got the idea, you did the work, you finished your book. Whether or not it gets published, you've done something thousands of people with "a great idea" - or, more sadly, no ideas at all - only ever talk about, and that's definitely a cause for celebration.