Ten months ago, I started submitting 5,000 word chunks of my first novel to my writers group. As a novice writer, I was eager for the feedback of more experienced writers. Their numerous suggestions continue to help me to be the best writer I can be.
Tonight the group critiqued the last six chapters of Addicted. Rather than the usual 5K, I submitted two additional chapters (an extra 2,500 words) so everyone could see how the book ends. The ending came hard for me and I was anxious to hear what everyone had to say.
Writing Glass Houses was easy. I’d lived the story. I just needed to tell it in an interesting and entertaining way. My only constraint was a desire to stick to facts that were often less well-established than I thought.
With Addicted, creating characters who are likable participants in a believable story is the challenge. I can add whatever I want to keep the reader interested–even serial killers and a big murder/suicide. But first the readers have to care about what happens to the main characters.
The idea for Addicted came to me as I was finishing up Glass Houses. Rereading my journals illuminated traits and tendencies in myself and others that for various reasons, didn’t make it into my first book. The original plan was for Addicted to be a fictionalized rendition of a part of my life that I fast-forwarded through in Glass Houses.
It’s not. But some of the characters are very loosely based on people I know or have known and crazy things that may or may not have happened during a similar time in my life. Any resemblance to anything that really happened is entirely coincidental.
Soon after I started writing Addicted, the characters came to life for me and the story took on a life of its own. The more I wrote, the more I learned about the characters and their relationships to each other. I always wanted the book to end with all the main characters seated around the dining room table enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together. The challenge was how to get there.
It took six very different rewrites for me to finally come up with a path to Thanksgiving that felt natural. My big concern was the last chapter being a little weak. Maybe even a whole lot weak. I hoped the criticisms I was about to hear would help me to come up with a better idea for how to finish the book.
My anxiety about the last chapter overshadowed my concerns for the next-to-last-chapter where everything happens. Everyone thought I’d rushed through two of the most important scenes in the whole book–the surprising murder/suicide and the consummation scene when the main characters finally sleep together. I completely understand and am thinking about how to beef up those scenes.
The big surprise was that everyone really liked the last chapter. The most frequently used adjective: sweet, as in a sweet way to end the book. As always, they offered numerous suggestions, big and small, that have made Addicted a much better book than I ever thought I could write. I’m hoping to stick a fork in it and call it done soon. But first, I need to spend a few days on the living room sofa with my laptop implementing the best of their suggestions.
And then, I’ll have written two books. Next year, I’ll get one or both published … somewhere. It might be jumping the gun just a bit but seems fair to say there’s an author living here in…
My Glass House