The Writing Life, published at Karenna Colcroft's site 3/2/2012. Link: http://karennacolcroft.com/?p=1959
I wonder if other writers are like me—at their happiest about halfway through the second draft of a story. It’s agony getting through that first draft because you have no clue (1) where your characters will take you next, and (2) how much research you’ll have to do to catch up with them. I probably spend half my time staring out the window at a loss to figure out what the little devils will do next.
My favorite part of life as a writer is finishing the third draft. At that point you feel you’ve accomplished something (I say “accomplished,” mind you, not “finished”). Of course, after submission and acceptance, it’ll be round after round after round of editing, grinding your soul into dust. J
My favorite part of being a successful writer (other than the glory) is being able to work when and as long as I want to, which usually translates to 100-hour weeks. I love being able to rise late, eat a leisurely breakfast, and slowly get into my work. I love not wearing heels and four layers of waist-pinching clothes. I love the freedom to go visit my children in the off-season. Most of all, I love finding in the mail an official certificate of copyright registration with my name in large florid letters, suitable for framing.
Blog for Lynn Tyler, 3/13/12: http://lynntylerbooks.com/how-to-eliminate-a-major-player-in-your-story-and-live-to-tell-about-it-m-s-spencer/
Losing Michaela: How to Eliminate a Major Player in your Story and Live to Tell About It
Every once in awhile a publisher will call you and say, “We love your story, except for one teensy part.”
“Not a problem,” you say. “Now what would that teensy part be?”
He casually drops the bomb: “We’d like you to move the setting from Milwaukee to Beirut,” or “revise the denouement so the heroine saves the hero rather than the other way around,” or “let the villain get away.”
Some writers will throw up their hands, withdraw the submission and stalk off in a huff. If you’re Truman Capote, that may work.* If you’re not, and you sensibly recognize that the editor and publisher probably have more experience than you in what their readers want, you consent. Not, of course, until after moaning, whining, stomping around your study, yelling at the cat, taking long healthful walks and long unhealthy swigs at a beer bottle, and miscellaneous other methods of letting off steam.
*Actually Capote never received a rejection in his life—deal with the devil? You be the judge.
Still, you love your story. You want people to read it. You want to sell copies. So you sit down, head in hands, and ponder: how do I completely revamp my manuscript?
Once I was asked to eliminate an entire character from my manuscript. My heroine was a writer, an introvert who spent a lot of time alone. Dialogue only appeared in fits and spots. Enter Michaela, a pixie (imaginary friend if you will) who accompanied my heroine on her adventures, nagging, cajoling, advising. My editor didn’t find her appealing and asked me to delete her. I played with various scenarios, including the following:
v Eliminate the character entirely. Play a mind game: what would happen if you simply deleted every mention of the character?
v Convert all internal scenes into dialogue and add a live person to the story mix.
v Add a new, better character to take over that role.
Here’s how it went.
When I tried to delete her entirely I discovered that Michaela played a very important role as foil to my heroine. Without her my heroine would be wandering around with no one but the hero and villain to bounce ideas off—an unrealistic and, in the case of the villain, dangerous thing to do. So, Michaela had to remain in some form. Since an imaginary friend was out, I had to somehow turn her into a live person but one who could interact with my introvert heroine even when she was alone.
Answer? Skype. Writer has laptop. Laptop has Skype. Heroine has a mother with qualities remarkably similar to the late Michaela (as well as Skype), who pops up anytime she wants to converse with her daughter via computer.
After all the sturm und drang, having to make such a huge alteration became not only a wonderful writing exercise, but taught me that any work can be improved and that with luck (and a beer) you soon forget those beautiful words scattered on the cutting room floor.