Of Success and Failure – Magical Words

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Hi Y’all!

This month, next week in fact, I was supposed to have new book out. First book in a new series.  Big dealio. Mucho excitement. I scheduled this date at several blogs to get the word out. I had PR ramping! Yes, as early as six months ago.

Annnnd it didn’t happen.

Why? Simply put, the book was not ready. BLOOD OF THE EARTH, the first in the Soulwood series, needed a serious—and I mean deeply serious—rewrite. It had bones. It had some good bones. But it wasn’t put together right.

I know, you are singing “The toe bone’s connected to the … ankle bone…” and you hate me right now. But bear with me.

I knew there were problems with the book but I could not see what was wrong. I was too close to it. This is why a writer, even an experienced writer, needs a developmental editor. A developmental editor (for those who do not know) is the kind of editor who understands structure and arcs—story arcs, character arcs, who can see the way the story should be built and isn’t. Someone who can say, “This needs so much work that you cannot get it ready in time to get it printed. Let’s pull the book until you can have some time.”

Yes. That is what happened to BLOOD OF THE EARTH. BOTE-CoverAnd thank GOD that my editor suggested this!  By the time she listed all the things that needed to be restructured, I was … not in tears. No. But I was very aware that it was seriously flawed.

Now. I could have (figuratively speaking) stuck out my tongue and refused to make changes. Because the voice was good and the world was wonderful. I know some writers who have done that in the past. I’ve seen them go from great writers to mediocre writers because they trusted their own instincts and not their editors, or because their editors didn’t say, “This is a problem. Fix it.”

I studied what my editor was saying and she was right.

The two plot lines didn’t meet. One just disappeared. The secondary characters were two dimensional. Some were even unlikeable. The main character was wishy-washy. Her actions weren’t always based on sound reasoning. Not the character’s sound reasoning, but the writer’s sound reasoning. Sometimes the characters did things without the actions making sense, so the reader got confused. Motive should be supplied by the writer and it should always be understood, or understanding should be promised and later provided.

Mostly? The main character wasn’t likeable enough. Wasn’t someone who can be related to. Characters must have weaknesses and flaws and need to need other characters in order for them to have room to grow and develop.

I am now—the week before the book should be out—nearly ready to turn the book back over to my editor. In fact, it will go to her the Day It Should Have Been Released… Yes. How’s that for serendipity?

I have cut and rearranged and cut some more. I have beefed up all the characters. I have made them likeable—except the ones who shouldn’t be likeable. They are more unlikeable. I have made the plot lines converge and separate again. I have killed the bad guys or let them kill each other or had them arrested. I have left enough plot lines open to take me to the second book. And the third. Without making it seems as if they were forgotten. And it is a much better book!

So. This was just a share day. And a thank you day to my wonderful editor whom I adore.

And I have links for you to get free stuff, and a link to sign up to my new newsletter.  Links!!!

Thanks for reading. Thanks for loving my work. Thanks for giving me a chance to do you proud. And thank you to my editor who is amazing and brave and talented.

(Double posted to my webpage blog at www.faithhunter.net )

Faith

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12 comments to Of Success and Failure – Magical Words

  • sagablessed

    This is one post I adore. It shows even such experiences authors as you can have issues. Even better, it gives an idea on how to fix them.
    But question: do you use betas (not asking to be one) and have they done similar? And if so, how much difference between the betas and the developmental editor was there?

  • Hey Saga! There can be (and usually is)a HUGE difference between a good beta and a good editor. I have one beta (after all these years) who can tell me things like, “I don’t like the character,” or “What happened to the plot line?” But even she is limited. A developmental editor catches it all. It can be like being hit in the face with an air bag during an accident — leaving you woozy for a while. My developmental edits have been known to run 12 pages single spaced. Yes. 12. And sometimes they cut deep. I haven’t had such a hard time getting a book right in nearly 20 years.

    I WANT to be edited. I NEED to be edited. I have no false modesty or pride. I just want to write a good book, you know?

  • mudepoz

    Why do you think this book has been so hard for you to develop versus your other books? Have you done a spin-off before?

  • Amen to this! I have just started doing some developmental edits, when asked, for my freelance copy-editing job. So it’s become a matter of honing the “I didn’t like this” to “this needs specific work, and here’s why” as I transition away from what I would say if I was just a beta-reader. And yet I have trouble seeing this sort of stuff in my own work until someone points it out. The best part? Making those changes has also helped me improve my skills and become a better writer in general. This is why editors matter! Thank you for sharing, Faith. 🙂

  • It’s incredibly helpful to know this happens to other writers. Thank you.

  • Razziecat

    This post tells me what probably went wrong with a couple of books I reviewed on Amazon. It wasn’t that the writing was bad, or that the story wasn’t a good one. But the characters did things that didn’t fit with the personality traits already established, and major plot points seemed to come out of nowhere. In one case, one of the main characters was completely unlikable. I suspect someone didn’t have, or didn’t heed, a developmental editor. Great post, Faith!

  • Mud, I have done a spinoff, as Gwen Hunter. In fact, last time the spinoff was more successful than the original book. And I have no idea why this book is so hard. Or… I have lots of ideas but not real answer.

  • Laura. Yes. This! ANd yet I still have problems! Ha!

  • Deep Forest, yes. It happens to all of us.

    Razzie, yes. A lot of books deeply needed a developmental editor and never got one.

  • I’m late reading this, but love this post. Such a clear level-headed and honest look at what to do with a book that isn’t working. Thanks for being a good role model.

  • Bonnieblue

    Thanks for this post, Faith. I’ve just started trying to re-do a seriously flawed manuscript I wrote four years ago and this post helped give me some direction on how to address it.

  • SiSi, I’m not saying it isn’t painful, however! LOL

    Bonnie, I hope you spot the problems and see ways to address them. 🙂