I’m extremely overdue for posting an update on my revision work. I apologize – I’ve been working hard on the revision…which is going much better than I originally expected. When I first received the developmental editor’s feedback, I was um, a bit…miffed. There were some suggestions that seemed so contrary to what I envisioned for my character, that I couldn’t get past it. That was at first. Now…now I’m much more o.k. with making the changes (most, not all – you have to stay true to the vision of your story).
I’m an impatient person. And stubborn. And I’d rather be in control of what happens to me than not. Not necessarily in control of a situation – I can go along for the ride if someone else is in charge. But I need to know – or like to think I know – what my role in something is or might be. I don’t like to go into anything with blinders on. And that’s exactly what you have to do when you turn your manuscript over to someone. You never know what he or she will like/hate/feels is not essential to your storyline.
And that’s o.k. – because if you desire an honest, professional, objective opinion on your work (and you should), then you have to be willing to give up some things, be willing to open your mind to the input and suggestions. And to the possibilities. Because after giving serious thought to the editor’s suggestions, I realized he was right about so many things. And so the next several posts will cover the changes I made based on the editor’s feedback and a ‘re-vision’ of my characters and the plot.
Here’s the first one…
I’d been told by three editors and one agent that my opening was good, but the pacing needed attention. The opening lines grabbed their attention, but then the scene quickly spiraled downward (not their words, they were much too kind…but that was the gist). One editor said it felt as if I was setting up a scene, rather than letting the action play out. And that comment made perfect sense. In the original opening, my protagonist – Joe Cooper – is having a drink at a bar. He’s listening to the bartender tell him about some creepy teens that were in the place earlier (it’s also a restaurant). The teens had tried to hit on one of the younger waitresses – in a way that suggested the teens were of Joe’s kind (he’s a vampire). As the bartender is relating the story, the same teens come in and the action starts.
The feedback I received suggested I get rid of all the set-up and just have the teens walk in and start acting in a way that quickly gets Joe’s attention. I made the changes – and wow, what a difference in pacing and tension. So really, a simple change but one that I would never had made without that outside feedback. It’s tough to see the problems in your own work. And even when you do, it’s not easy to know how to make a change for the better.
Sure, looking at the original scene now I see the problems, but before, I couldn’t. I thought setting up the confrontation was o.k., but it just made things drag. Lesson learned – don’t set things up more than you need to, just go with the action if you want a fast-paced opening (or any scene). If you want to slow things down, that’s different – but you don’t want slow right out of the gate.
What about the opening to your book? Does it get reader attention right away? More importantly, does it keep their attention? Think about it – how many times have you picked up a book at the bookstore or library, read the first few lines, and then put the book right back down. What about those books that draw you in immediately, and never let you go? You know the ones I’m talking about – the ones that keep you awake until four in the morning, even though it’s a weeknight and you know you’re going to pay for it the next day? Or that make you forget about your family, your other responsibilities, your own life because you simply cannot put the book down?
That’s the kind of book I want to write. And with the help from the developmental editor, I’m closer to that goal.