Happy April Fool’s Day. Today’s thoughts focus on how to know when you’re on the right track or have wandered off the path and need to stop and retrace your steps. In other words, when does “pause and reset” make more sense than “fooling” yourself into believing sall is well?
Case in point, the sequel to my first book, The Sleepover Clause. The working title for this one is The Travel Clause. I’ve written the first four chapters. The first two have gone over pretty well with my critique partners (after they’d seen the first chapter three times). They recently saw the third chapter for the second time. I thought it was much better than the first attempt, and, though that may have been the case, it still met resistance. [Note: “resistance” is probably too strong a word. One of the purposes of critique partners is to give specific, honest feedback. When your manuscript is in its initial draft, they’re probably going to have a lot to say. The writer wants this feedback, even though it means probable revision. That doesn’t mean, however, that they jump with joy when they receive it.]
So now I’ve now entered into this phase of writing some might term “reevaluation,” or as I lovingly refer to it, “second-guessing.” Do their comments hold merit? Have I wandered into infertile territory lacking conflict and tension? Have I failed to create clear motivation behind my hero and heroine? Or, are both those elements there and just need a little more clarity and substance? In other words, is it slash-and-burn time or will a little more fertilizer do the trick?
Fortunately, I’ve been here before. (What? You thought all those gripping, poignant, sizzling passages in my books appeared out of nowhere?) Here’s how I’ve learned to cope with this stage. First, you take good notes, because you’re going to go back over these later, and you’ll want to fully understand them. Next, do nothing, at least don’t make any immediate, impulsive decisions. Give yourself time to react, time to ponder, time to consider the feedback. No sulking. no self-pity allowed, although a little pampering is okay. Rest both the brain and the body. Do something else. Then, come back to the feedback. Reread it and read it again, because it may say something different this time around that strikes a chord. Take the feedback and hold it up to what you want the story to do/say. Are they in synch? If so, then it’s time to pause and reset.
While you’re pausing, though, consider whether you can take what you have, manipulate it, and emerge with something that will take the story where you want it to go, or whether you have to back up, maybe even to a previous chapter and start again in order to steer your story the right way.
In my case, I think I may have to do more than back up. Reassess is more like it, because even before this latest feedback was received I questioned the premise I had in mind. Was it plausible? Even if plausible, did it detract from my hero and heroine’s likeability? Guess I have some deep thinking to do. So at this point, I’m going to pause. See you next week.