Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Don't Make It Harder Than It Is - Finding the simple solution

One thing I have noticed in a lot of submissions is how hard and how complicated many writers make their stories. I do think much of this stems from the work they do with their critique partners or from feedback from contests. Where do I find most of these problems? In the backstory dumps the authors try to spin.

When I am working with my writers on their projects, I often find myself trying to find the easiest solution to problems that might have plagued the writer for a long time. It might be plot issues, it might be character development. For most of the writers, the issue has come about because they have been so focused on the story and the writing that they ended up with blinders on. They have tunnel vision. When I look at the story and see the issues, I try to remove those blinders and get to that solution fast.

Think about it... If we can fix a problem with the addition of a small paragraph, or maybe the simple deletion of something early on in the story, the writer can save himself or herself from over-hauling the entire story or doing massive rewrites. What would you rather do?

Let me give you this example. I was working with Michele Young on one of her books with Source Books and the editor had expressed a concern about the motivations of the hero. Why would he shy away from the heroine? What would cause him to not want to enter into the relationship. As we talked through the problem, the editor had recommended some huge rewrites. We were going to add in another subplot that would have extended throughout the entire book. For me, I knew there had to be an easier way. The answer was simple. We make the hero a widower and his first wife died in childbirth. He didn't want to live though that experience again.

In this case, we added a small scene where that was revealed and the problem was fixed.

Now, this idea also extends to the motivations of your characters. I just spoke about this about a week or so ago but this is a good time to remind ourselves of this. We don't need a huge backstory and a huge supply of baggage for our characters just to provide the motivation. That might have just been the way the person has always been.

The point of this is pretty simple. Keep It Simple. Before you go throwing the entire story out or rewriting huge blocks of material, stop and think. What is the underlying problem you are facing and is there something that can be tweaked or turned in your story to fix it. Avoid those huge over-hauls at all cost.


  1. I'm definitely guilty of this. Especially when it comes to character motivation. But like you said, easiest can be the best in some cases, and I'm learning. I'll be keeping this example on hand as a reminder ^_^

  2. Boy do I relate to this post! The story I wanted to write I 'threw out' because I didn't think the motivations of the hero and the conflict in general was enough. So I started a new story and while it's working so far, I can't help feeling like I made more work (and angst) for myself than necessary. This post was like a huge weight coming off my shoulders. Thank you for that!