HOW A NOVEL COLLAPSES IN ON ITSELF
Posted on March 5, 2017
Getting a house inspected before you throw money at it is a crucial step in home buying. You want more eyes on the big purchase. You need someone who can spot the trouble areas.
The same can be said for writing a novel. When you're building the story, it's easy to lose sight of the overall story. Erecting an unexpected addition you think will add to the plot or redoing some interior design because you suddenly thought of a cool idea on the fly might propel you forward in completing the book, but is it good for the project? Being so close to the story, you push down some of your unease about the writing and keep moving forward, trusting that you've let the narrative find its way before and everything worked out fine in the end. Just because there are no apparent leaks in the plot pipes doesn't mean you're safe. In the end, it'll all come together to reveal a swanky new story with a solid foundation and a roof built to last for decades, right?
Well, that didn't happen to The Powers That Flee. I finished it up and sent it to my fellow writer, Keith Robinson, for beta reading and all-around kvetching. Keith has read all my books. He knows my quirks, both good and bad. He isn't afraid to tell me when I'm being lazy or when a story isn't coming together. When he offers criticisms, I see his points and make changes, reworking scenes and rewriting whole chapters when needed.
With The Powers That Flee, he found a lot of problems. Chiefly, it was readily apparent I was writing the book as I went along and wasn't putting much thought into some of the logic of my rules for the villains. Overall, the netherscourge were not strong baddies. Their plans sputtered along, dragging the story down with their bland nature and how passive they were to the heroes.
When Keith told me the book was flawed and needed a great deal of work, I knew he was 100% right.
My mind went to work rethinking the project. I had a fair amount I could keep intact. He praised the eighties vibe and how much he liked the personal details in the story. He loved how I wrote the teens and their interactions in school. So I had some things I could keep.
I carved up the book, grabbing scenes I wanted to hold onto and plopping them into a document that wound up around 24,000 words. I next made another document to paste any eighties references from the scenes I didn't keep in the hopes I could work them into the new narrative.
I then sat down to write a chapter outline that would tightly detail what would happen in the new narrative. Gone were the weak bad guys, replaced by a much more believable and thoroughly eighties antagonist. The main cast of five was cut down to three. More powers were on display. A big reason for this is that their powers no longer lasted for seven days, but went to a percentage scale where they could burn through them in a matter of hours or parse them out to last days if they needed to. Plus, the bully plot that petered out in the original took on a stronger focus as well as the relationship between Darin and Rachel. They're an awkward, but sincere couple whose relationship would evolve much more this time around in a manner that was sweet and very eighties without being too lusty and forced.
So instead of publishing a flawed novel in March, the new book will be written in March and April. It looks like a late May release is a definite possibility.
I'm so glad to have a fellow writer who I can trust to tell me when things aren't working. Thank you, Mr. Robinson. You are one class act.