Sunday, July 11, 2010

Renovations in Progress

Photo by Alisdair McDiarmid from Glasgow, UK

Have you ever had a feeling something was wrong with a passage, a scene, a chapter you are writing, but could not put your finger on it? Have you rationalized or ignored that uncomfortable feeling and plunged on? But when you read it aloud to your critique group, they gave you a sympathetic, yet firm glare? And then it happens, what you were dreading.

“Melanie, that last scene…you were telling, not showing.”

“Melanie, how does this scene move your plot along?”

“Melanie, where did that come from? You’re character would never react like that.”

And then you know. You know. That is what was wrong. That is why you were uncomfortable with the scene, but you didn’t know why until it your group called in your marker. Because you’ve been in your critique group so long, you know they are right.

I’m not talking about the various critiques where suggestions are made and you can accept or reject the advice. I’m talking about the times when you just know they are absolutely, positively correct on every point. The scene must be revised, or deleted and you must weave the one important point into another scene. It is work. It means lots of time and thought, trial and error, but somewhere inside you there is excitement. Just as you knew something was wrong, now you know something is going to be right. You know when you are finished, the scene will be spellbinding.

That happened to me this week, only this time it wasn’t my critique group’s feedback. An agent’s assistant sent me a fabulous rejection, taking the time to kindly outline in detail what needed to be revised. And I knew. I knew she was right on every single point. Instead of feeling rejected, the letter instilled excitement. Some of the points will be an easy—though time consuming--fix. Some issues I wasn’t sure how to address and wanted input.

I sent out a call to authors, Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton (the husband and wife team who taught the “Novel Writing Boot Camp” I attended (twice). Carolyn and Mike dropped everything and agreed to meet me for a drink. Crit friends The First Carol and Sharon Axeline also came running. (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the word "margarita.")

“Can this manuscript be saved?” I asked.

“Absolutely. You can do this. It is going to take some work, but you can do it.” Carolyn and Mike affirmed. The five of us tossed around ideas while we sat in the dry heat on the patio of a Mexican restaurant and sipped margaritas. Mike and Carolyn threw out one idea that caught my imagination. I sent them that vacant, far-away smile, when your fictional mind is off and running and Mike said, "I can see you've got something."

I’m starting the next phase of writing. I’m following the advice of the agent’s assistant. Thanks to her I know what needs to be done. I know how to do it. Now I just need to develop the back-story in my own head and weave it into the book. It is like sewing white, puffy clouds together in an azure summer sky, forming interesting shapes as they float slowly across the vast expanse. It will take some time, but I can do it. I will do it. And it will be spellbinding.

I’m so excited.


  1. Huge congrats on this amazing feat!

    One of the toughest obstacles writers face is not knowing how to write something in a way that will please an agent/editor. Having one of those rare beasts actually TELL you what they want is pure gold. Enjoy it, and good luck!


  2. Tawna,

    Thanks. I'm so thrilled. I think I'll do the revisions before I send out any more queries.

  3. It's gonna be fabulous :) I'm doing the same thing myself at the moment

  4. Nicole,

    Yes. There were a couple of items I didn't know already, but made sense when mentioned. Another couple of things I suspected could be a problem, but hoped they weren't.

    Let me know how your renovation is going. :)

  5. Woohoo! I'm excited for you!


  6. Thanks Olivia. I'm running into problems. I'm thinking if I just kill off half the characters, it would be easier.

  7. Karen,

    Thanks. I wish we lived closer. We could get together and read each others revisions.


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