For a writer, there really is nothing quite like the feeling of falling in love….with the book you’re writing. That moment when it moves from being a good concept to a good book is pure magic. All of a sudden the characters are behaving themselves and are doing and saying the things they should be. And not doing the things they shouldn’t be.
In this case, I’m falling back in love with a book (Halcyon) that needed a heavy revision, including a brand new beginning. The new beginning was a challenge for me, but when editor and agent BOTH say a change is necessary, a smart writer gets busy rewriting the beginning. Knitting that new beginning into the existing story was hard, hard work. I flailed and floundered until I finally (just last week!) found the authentic voices for Blake and Amanda again.
Let’s be realistic – Blake would never answer the door in Chapter 4 and smile at Amanda. That’s ridiculous. He’s guarding his heart and fighting his attraction to this woman, and he wants to discuss a business proposition with her. Smiling, or any other warm/fuzzy reaction, would be all wrong.
Revised scene: he’s in the midst of an angry phone conversation with his father (yeah, they’re not close…at all) when he opens the door to Amanda after summoning her to Halcyon. She gets to hear him all snarly on the phone, with barely a hint of warmth, even after he ends the call and tells her they need to talk. Yup. That’s just the tension level they need.
And Amanda wouldn’t be all chummy and jokey with the construction workers, even if it is in a toss-away scene. She’s a traumatized woman, for crying out loud! She needs to maintain a distance from them. Otherwise, it’s just confusing.
Multiply those two minor changes by a few hundred, and the entire tone of the book changes. It’s genuine. The characters become compelling, and the reader actually cares about what happens to them. The story moves forward with the proper amount of tension, because the characters are doing things that are believable for them.
Once I have characters properly formed, I can see their motivations and habits and defense mechanisms. I see their hearts. Not only do I know how they’d react in any situation; I also know why they’d react that way. And the reader can see it, even when the characters can’t.
So ‘all I have to do now’ (that was sarcasm, by the way) is finish going through the manuscript paragraph by paragraph, and ask myself over and over and over: is this really what should/would happen? It’s a piece of cake (more sarcasm).
Now that I have a full understanding of the characters with this new beginning, it’s a lot more fun. Take the first example mentioned above, a scene that has been written and edited for several weeks. All of a sudden I can see it playing out as if it was on film. When I’m immersed in the book that deep, it’s easy to say “Whoa – why the hell is he smiling?” Once that quick correction was made, the rest of the scene was easy to revise, and it ended up being SOOOO much better. Yeah, it’s still work. But instead of beating my head on my desk and spinning my wheels, I’m making forward progress.
And I’m falling back in love with my favorite book and characters. YAY!
Why should you care? Well, when an author loves the story, it’s a lot more likely the reader will love it, too. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to do just that later this year.