And We’re Off!

Nearly two weeks ago, I submitted a blurb, synopsis, character profiles, and chapter summaries for my next novel, After Christmas Eve, for critique by the writers in my group. I’ve never known enough to be able to put those pieces together without first having finished writing the book. I couldn’t wait to hear what they would say.

Saturday night I got the verdict. The general consensus was that everything sounded okay. However, the devil is in the details the barebones outline didn’t provide–a fact that somewhat limited the kind of feedback they could provide.

Everyone agreed that the story is chocked full of cliche characters, plot twists, and conventions. For the uninitiated, that is NOT a good thing. To some extent, stripped of the details, we agreed this would be true for most stories. There are only so many basic plots. It’s the details that, for better or worse, make a story stand out. I see exactly what they’re talking about and hope I’ve figured out ways to morph from cliche to interesting.

In addition to the cliches, they raised valid concerns about the characters. We had a great discussion that helped me to think through less developed aspects of the characters and the story. By the time they finished with me, my mind was reeling as I processed all the information I’d received.

Sunday morning I got up and worked on revisions to the character and chapter descriptions. Changes to the characters came first. Just about everyone got a tweak or two. I even swapped roles for two of the characters. Now the original draft looks like a mistake–like they’d been accidentally transposed. This tells me that the characters are just waiting for me to let them out of my imagination to tell their story.

Thinking through all the plot changes was a bit more challenging. I might have given up, but I kept thinking about how much easier revamping the paragraph chapter summaries was than rewriting finished chapters.  Once I figured out the changes I wanted, incorporating them into the chapter summaries was easy.

Early yesterday afternoon I sat down to write the first chapter. The question for me was whether the chapter summaries made it easier or more difficult to write the chapter. Based on my experience in writing the first two chapters, the jury is still out on that one.

Writing a chapter takes longer. The beginning is always hard. Once the ball gets rolling, things tend to move along a bit faster. But I think it’s taking longer because the chapters are so much richer than my first drafts have been in the past. Instead of worrying about where I’m going, I’m planting seeds for things that come in later chapters.

The quality of these first two chapters, in my humble opinion, vastly exceed anything I’ve written before. I’ll find out soon enough. My goal is to have 5000 words finished by Wednesday’s submission deadline for the writers group. I’m half way there. Thanks a million billion to my sweet partner for keeping things quiet so I can write here in…

My Glass House