Originally posted on 4/18/10 for the
Charge of the Write Brigade.
I never even realized it was a problem. When I came up with Annabelle, I simply sat down and started to write. The story wrote itself. What that means is that the characters traveled the paths they wanted and as each story idea presented itself, I wrote it. Obstacles were resolved and a conclusion finally happened.
Boy was I green. I feel for those first beta readers. I knew stories needed beginnings, middles and ends but what I didn’t realize is the journey needed to be tighter.
As writers, we get caught up in our worlds. We want to spend all day with our muses. We’d be happy sitting at a kitchen table with them, chatting away. But that’s not interesting to our readers.
People want to read stories that keep them entranced. We as writers want the same things. Recently a professional editor taught me a few things on this subject. I can’t profess to be an expert and when I get my manuscript back, I’m sure they’ll still be pacing issues to work on. Regardless, I did learn some very valuable lessons.
I had a beginning and followed it with the main threat and a turn around event that set the story agenda. But afterwards my story went from event to event. Sure, there were threats and the main characters learned things, but the big bad guy didn’t constantly threaten them. He seemed to be ok with leaving them to stir and stew.
Shouldn’t he have a vested interest in them? Why isn’t he trying to kill them more? Or at the very least, why aren’t his servants doing more to further his goals? It may be fun to see vampire children learn to be bats, but what if there’s a time limit to learn before the big bad returns to kill them?
There were plenty of fun scenes that I originally showed. Things that even helped the characters grow. But these scenes had no bearing in the story I wanted to tell this time. If they don’t add to the general story, cut and paste it into a new file and tuck it away for later. Tell them this story.
Create a Novel Elevator Pitch, create an outline from it, and then sit down with your novel and remove anything that doesn’t contribute to the story goals. Keep in mind that as the story continues, your events should add to your goals.
What is this story about? Where do I want my characters to be by them end? What conflicts will there be and how can they ramp up the story? How can these events or new events keep the readers invested and help my characters to grow?
Take a good look at your story structure and you’ll make a better novel.