After several years of work, I finished writing a novel somewhere in the neighborhood of 82,000 words. Drop confetti here.
I often hear from people, “I want to read your book;” “How’s your book coming?” and the like. Even my husband and sons tell me their friends want to read it. Yikes! Those words make me tuck my tail and hide under the bed like a whipped puppy. Why?
I’ve known for a while that my story needed a major overhaul, that some of its pieces simply weren’t right—either not in the right order or forced or some other reason I’d not yet labeled. After spending all summer 2012 querying agents, I decided to enter a national organization’s contest last fall with the beginning. I got some decent feedback and made the suggested changes to the manuscript and entered that group’s next-step contest in early 2013. When the feedback arrived, I didn’t even recognize what they were saying because the story had been so convoluted to fit their requirements. It was enough to turn me off completely of both that organization, my story, and writing all together. I put the manuscript in a proverbial box under the bed (actually just a file on the computer) and did not think about it. In fact, I grew disdain for the whole project. I even considered hitting “delete.”
I decided I wasn’t a fiction writer; I’m doing copyediting for others. I simply was not ready to tackle this huge undertaking again or wasn’t sure it was even worth it. Then a month ago, the signs started showing up all around me. You know those instances that seem like coincidences, but they happen one after another in a condensed period of time, and you can just feel God nudging you saying, “WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? COME DOWN THERE AND WRITE IT FOR YOU?” Well, that would be nice, but that would also freak me out, so we’ll go with the nudging.
The last of the nudges was a message from Martha Alderson, the Plot Whisperer in California, who told me not to fret but to wait until her annual PlotWriMo when she leads authors through the month together doing daily exercises to analyze the plot. Come one, come all, just bring your finished manuscript, and we’ll tear it apart. How could I deny that nudge? I couldn’t. So ready or not, December 1 arrived, and somehow I started. I still haven’t opened my novel’s file, which is good since Martha instructed us not to read it yet. I haven’t read it since the beginning of the year so it’s really fuzzy (plus all mixed up since I had rewritten the beginning for that contest.)
I confess on Day 1 of PlotWriMo, I just stared at the screen trying to figure out what to write down for the exercises. With this niggling feeling that the story wasn’t right as is, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Not until pushing through today’s assignment (and the physical act of writing on legal-size paper) was I able to hash out some of the major problems with the plot. Eureka! I may have uncovered some of the characters’ motives tonight, and it’s only because it happened now. No way could I have written these scenes earlier since I have new understanding.
Cause and effect is the main driving force behind a plot. A character doesn’t do something without a reason to do so, which is why some of the scenes seemed forced to me. By being willing to do a major cut—slice and dice, with a major rewrite on the horizon—I’m finally able to move the big pieces of the puzzle around to see if any of this story can be salvaged.
What I may find is that I have too many sub-plots, or I may have another book woven into this one, but I think the process of the PlotWriMo will uncover that issue among others. Only two days are down with an entire month ahead. I shall trudge forth in an effort to keep on track, not fall behind, and be ready for the new year’s total rewrite with a new direction and newly fueled energy. This manuscript may live after all. At this early point in the month’s journey, I hope you’ll wish me the necessary glue to stick to it.