Because I know me, now’s the time when I have the real challenge ahead – unlike countless other novels and projects I’ve charged at on full cylinders, only to end up by the wayside a few chapters in, this is the story I just HAVE TO TELL and NOW IS THE TIME TO DO IT. I’m at that dangerous half way mark, where I need to keep momentum and put my foot on it. Damn it, I will get Alice written even if it’s the last thing I do.
The call with the editor this afternoon was incredibly useful and I know I am very lucky to get this sort of feedback, as opposed to keep on gingerly feeling my way ahead with little guidance beyond my own conviction. Getting feedback on the first three chapters and brain storming the rest has helped massively and I feel even more positive and confident now.
Alice needs warming up several degrees, and I feel good about that. I think perhaps because I know my characters so well, I have probably at times almost assumed that the reader will know everything that I do. Except of course they can’t, unless I show them. John’s entrance I now also know what to do with and how to restructure without losing any of the pivotal details of his background and connection with Alice.
And then of course Karen. Sadly, she cannot be saved. I love her dearly, but her story arc doesn’t work and she doesn’t fill as much of a purpose as I thought when I wrote her into Alice’s complicated existence. As sad as it is to get rid of her, the silver linings on this particular literary cloud is that Tom and Britt get some of her ‘duties’, which will lend much more depth to the story as well as showing Alice and Tom at their best before I cruelly rip them apart, muuuuahahahahaaaaa!
Her advice was in line with my plan – keep on churning out the first draft with my new directions in mind and THEN head back over the early bits and amend them accordingly. My word count target is sound too, but she did say that it’s better to keep it lean and let my writing stay muscular than add padding for the sake of it, and of course! I’d much rather end up with something tight and solid, than something with pointless parts that don’t take the story forward.
If I were to just write as it comes to me (which of course is what I do 90% of the time – when I’m in “the zone” the words just come pouring out and I find it VERY hard to focus on shaping them as I write, they just sort of happen), I have a tendency to embark on inner monologues and endless telling the reader than SHOWING. So this is something I really need to fine tune. Because I was already aware of this, I think I may have swung a little too far in the opposite direction – the novel, as it stands, is quite crowded and a sub story line I’ve been developing actually needs to be completely axed: Lucy. Lucy, oh Lucy! I did love writing you, and in spite of how nasty and mean you are, it is with sadness I send you off the pitch to walk off into the sunset with Karen, having failed your audition.
What this does mean though, is that it gives me the chance to really let the characters that DO count shine, and I owe it to them.
The editor reckons John is pretty much spot on, in all his quirkiness, which made me really happy as I have taken such care creating him into a character I’m crazy about. To be honest – I wish John was my neighbour, I like him that much. Of course, he’s Alice’s neighbour, I just need to make the start of their slightly unlikely friendship develop in a more believable way that allows the reader to really see each character’s motivation and quest.
You win some, you lose some, but I feel that where I’m at right now is a pretty good place and once again I feel the air beneath my wings and ready to leap off and fly into what’s been my dream for as long as I can remember: seeing my words in print, bound together as a book.
One thing I forgot to cover on the call, was how I’ve very briefly introduced Jake the psychopath, who is one of Alice’s marriage counselling clients. Jake is the protagonist in the next book already simmering in my mind. It’s a bit of a risk, and I fear it might be a little confusing, so I must remember to run this over with her once I have the first draft in the best shape I feel I can get it. It won’t be a biggie if it doesn’t work – it’s just about a third of a chapter when Alice is at work, and really there to show how drained she is rather than focusing on Jake as such.
Gosh, perhaps I’m big headed or conceited, but I do feel so good about this – I no longer care that much if Alice ends up unpublished and gathering dust in a box somewhere, all I know is that I will give this all that I have and who knows where it might lead. At least then I can say I gave it my best shot, and that’s precisely what I intend to do.