Monday, January 17, 2011

I Built My Novel-House on Sand

Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but it's worse than I thought.

After my first read-thru of my novel, I realized I'm in a lot of trouble. My heroine's goals aren't clear, the characters don't always sound like themselves, and there's a lot of "fluff" in the story. I didn't write this as part of Nano, so I don't know why I would have been padding word count--must have just been rambling, unsure where to take the story next or what was important to the story. Lesson learned: start plotting more and stop being a "pantser"-- flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants just doesn't work for me.

But there is a bigger problem to the novel. I knew there was something majorly, majorly wrong with the story. But I couldn't put my finger on it.

So I grabbed out one of my favorite references: Story Structure Architect (a book I highly recommend, by the way). I took a look at the structure sheet, wrote in my plot points for things like "turning point 1" and "reversal" . . . and right away, a major problem jumped out at me.

With the way I've set up my story and defined my plot points, Act I ends on page 154 (of a 300 page manuscript). That means Act I takes up fifty-percent of my story. That means half my story "happens" before anything REALLY happens. Hm. That just might be a problem. Obviously, I've padded Act I with too much junk. I've added too much "watching my characters play" because, as their novel-mommy, I think they are the bees knees and want to show everyone how smart and wonderful they are and want to make everyone come to their violin recital and watch boring, three-hour slide shows about them (and I'm not showing my age here; I mean powerpoint slide shows, not 1970's-style slide shows. Really. Don't look at me like that).

Of course, Act I being 25% of your story is not a hard and fast rule (like the pirate's code: really more like guidelines). But keeping your novel (at least) close to these guidelines does generally make for a better story (and when you have 2X as much as the guideline, it definitely signifies a problem). As a side note, most structure books will talk about having two major turning points and many smaller turning points; I have three major turning points in my novel, and that's just perfect for my novel.

So this revision/edit is going to take longer than I thought. I will not make my goal of having this thing polished by June. But I'm going to keep at it. I love the characters, and I think others will too (no, I'm not being a novel-mommy now; I think the characters and story will interest readers). I'm just going to have to come at the whole thing with a chainsaw instead of with a hand-saw.


  1. At least you have this to console you, when you're done, your 'baby' will BE the bee's knees. ;)

  2. At least I HOPE it will be, lol.

    Thanks for reading!


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