Friday, August 6, 2010

Question or Problem from a writer...

This one came from a comment earlier this week and I thought it a great thing to consider for everyone here...

I'm afraid I'm losing my focus in my rewrites. Sometimes I just want to put my hands over my ears and eyes and shut out all the advice and critiques and explanations ... and just write. MY WAY. The way I used to.

My book started out as an inspirational romance with some mystery. Now, I'm totally rewriting it to pull out the Christian message and beefing up the mystery. I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. I can't even remember why I thought that was a good idea. I really don't know how to find out if I'm doing the right thing. Maybe it's time for me to put this one away and go to something different. Except I really have a passion for this book. I just don't know . . .

In the case of this writer, it is the same that many other writers face all of the time. There is a constant need to change and if you aren't careful, the change will create an entirely new story, and certainly one that you might not want to have.

This writer actually has the answer in her problem. It is a matter of focus and really stopping to think. This is also part of the reason why I stress that a writer needs to be a plotter not a pantster. That focus this writer is forgetting can be equated to a thesis statement in non-fiction writing. What is it that you intend to get across to the reader? If you had to sum it all up into a single sentence, what is the message you want the reader to leave with. In the case of inspirationals, that should actually be even easier.

Once you have established that, write it down and put it next to your computer or over your desk. As you do your revisions, keep glancing up at it. You might have something that would seem to fit at that point in your story, but if it isn't heading you toward your "thesis" it simply is not to be included. I don't care how good the scene might be, it doesn't go in. Save it for another story.

As far as following the lead of your critiques, this actually has two potential problems. The first is that maybe your writing is lacking that thesis early on. If the reader isn't getting it, then all critique will be out of context and often contradictory. Make it clear early on in the story! If we can see the internal conflicts of the characters and how each of them will work to assist the other, we might have it. Remember though, if you don't have a conflict, you are simply out of luck.

Now the second problem could be how you are approaching your critiques. If you are just handing it to someone and saying, "tell me what you think," you are opening yourself up to a big mess. With any writer I work with, the first thing I ask them when they hand me a story is "what do you want me to look for." By doing so, this targets my critique.

My writers at Greyhaus know just this. If they send me a project, they will often give me guidelines. "Scott, I know that I am having a problem with the villain, but ignore that for right now, what I need is the internal conflict with the hero only."

The problem most writers have with any larger piece of writing is that we only see things in the smaller context of the page we are on. We forget that there is so much before or after it. It is normal, but constant reminders will help you.

Off to a swim meet now.



  1. Thanks Scott!

    No matter how many versions my ms has gone through, the central conflict, and the key events have remained the same. Everytime someone suggests changing something, I feel it's because they aren't getting it, so instead of changing the direction of the narrative, I need to simply tell the story better.

  2. Thanks for this blog post. Now when I look back on the original version of my manuscript, I can see that it did need to be re-written twice. I'll be able to finish the 3rd version with confidence now :)

  3. Thanks for featuring my frustration and offering some solutions. I do like your suggestion to keep theme in sight at all times. I'll do that.

    Perhaps you'll answer another question for me. I sold a book back in 1996 to Silhouette Romance. Writer friends tell me I should get my rights back and get the book on Kindle, etc. I've taken steps in that direction, but how long does it take to get rights back? Harlequin was contacted in May. Tell me, does it make any sense to even do this?

    Thanks. I've enjoyed exploring your archives.