Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don't Tell Me, I Have to Start Over?

I have been working with authors for some time now, and sometimes we learn through the process of editing and improving the manuscript, that the task is really that they need to start their short story over. A book is even worse, and it can be very painful considering all the time and effort put into it. 

But sometimes the task is necessary.

Sometimes, you have terrific characters, a nice setting, but the plot? Well, it sucks.

There is not enough intrigue, not enough tension, not enough (dare I say it) problems in the book to make the reader continue to read until the last page. Or you may have a lot going on in terms of problems, but the problems are all over the place and don't necessarily reflect the main struggle your primary character is going through.

Photo by: @Doug88888, courtesy of Flickr
For example, say your main character's parents are going through a divorce, but the problems your character faces don't specifically stem from the main problem. Perhaps the girl's focus is on friends and getting good grades at school, but she has no problem making friends and her grades are perfect. When a child faces the divorce of her parents, the loss affects every avenue of her life. She struggles to be liked, to prove herself worthy of a friend--any friend. (Who has enough self-esteem to be picky?) She makes mistakes directly related to the divorce, and finds herself searching for answers to fill in the loss of a missing parent.

Yes, I'm well aware that some books don't need that climb up the mountain (such as a memoir, for example) but most books need the intrigue. They need the tension.

Without it, you have nothing but beautiful words that lead the reader to the kitchen for a bite to eat.

Starting over isn't all bad. You have the characters in place. You have the setting. Now, create some problems for the character that continue to get worse (based on the main issue) before they get better.



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