REVISION | Old Thought, New Take


I’ve been working on the current revision in fits and starts since the fall, all the while doubting one aspect of the story, and all because long ago an agent rejected it with the comment that the romance was underdeveloped.

Fine, if I’d written a romance I’d have serious problems, but I didn’t write a romance. However, for years her comment followed me around, so I started to think it had merit in a way I didn’t yet understand.

The truth is, my protagonist does end up with one of the male characters. But the fact that she does isn’t the point of the novel. You know what I mean? If that were the point of the novel, it would be a romance.

But it’s not a romance.

Yet, since the agent rejection, I’ve pondered the love subplot, feeling vaguely uncomfortable. There is something off about it, isn’t there? I thought of adding scenes that showed the pair miscommunicating, coming to terms, falling out again, and so on.

But this would turn it into a romance, a completely different story altogether.

So here I am, right now, sitting with marked-up page 196, my breakfast/lunch, and an epiphany that arrived while I scrambled eggs with spinach. And what a bloody relief! Years, I mean years, this thing has been noodling at me every time I thought about this manuscript.

Ready? Ta-da: It’s not that I have to change the novel to fit the end. Rather, I need to alter the final chapters so the love aspect doesn’t read like it was the point of the novel.

Does this make sense?

It does to me. It’s so simple! And I’m sitting here quietly celebrating as if I’ve discovered the ultimate writing secret. Now, I’m gung-ho again. It’s like magic.

The real mystery is why it took me years to figure out this simple fix!

P.S. Last Word on That Darned Climax Epiphany

Okay, enthused again. Crazy, the ups and downs of my writer’s life. After kvetching this morning (previous post), then getting down to work; after many hours at the computer to semi-fruitful end; after lazing around for awhile, I had a thought. Truly, this one felt like it popped out of a machine in my head. (BigD, you philosopher, you getting my drift?)

It seems I’d only had part one of my epiphany; I needed today’s part two to complete the thought.

It’s this: What I thought to be the logical and realistic scene locations to follow my climax bored the snot right back up into my sinuses. This was the source of my anticlimactic feeling. To think, even in fiction location location location can be everything.

In this case, a shift to an unexpected location (for me, the writer, that is) adds to suspense because my protagonist must act in a surprising way to get us to that location. But not out-of-character; in fact, more in character given his current emotional turmoil and stymied circumstances.

And, relating this back to this morning’s post: I see what I’m doing with suspense here. It’s not whodunit-plot-twist related; the added suspense comes straight out of character. I’m not against twists, don’t get me wrong, but for this story I do indeed want the answers to the questions I posed this morning to be “yes.”

This is the first time a shift in location (rather than, say, changing the point of view character, delaying a revelation, or cutting a useless scene) solved a story snafu. By golly, I’ve learned something! Now, this possibility will always be in my repertoire.