Thursday, June 13, 2013

You Think Your Book Is Ready, But It's Not!

What is the best part of writing a novel? For me it is the time when the book ends and I realize it might be ready for other people to read. With my first novel, when I got to the ending I felt very emotional. Even after many readings of my own book I still choke up a little at the ending. However, after writing my second novel I didn’t get that kind of feeling at the end. Instead I had a real exhilaration as if the character was finally free.
So I decided to give my novel to my daughter, who was so helpful with my first one.

Thinking it was finished I expected to get some criticism, since this was also critiqued and read by many people in the past. In fact, I spent an entire summer exchanging chapters with someone who helped me a great deal. Yet, even after that I didn’t think it was finished. It had all the right ingredients, but somehow I wasn’t satisfied. So I gave it to my daughter to read and she read it fast. As I said, I expected to get some comments, but I wasn’t prepared for what she said.

She told me she didn’t like the plot and that some of the characters were not strong enough. She said that the main character and the secondary character were not real. I was very disturbed, since I was not expecting to change much in this manuscript. However, after her comments, I realized that she was right. I had to change the plot and add something to the mix so it made more sense. I went back and rewrote some of the first chapter and than found I had to rewrite almost every chapter to fit my new plot. As I rewrote I saw what my daughter meant. My original plot had no drama, except for the main character and even that was fairly contrived. The new plot takes care of this problem and adds drama. It heightens every character and makes them more real. I even added a scene that showcases a secondary character who had been more in the background. Then I went back and reread the ending and it all made much more sense. 

Now, I’m sure you want me to tell you what I am talking about, but I haven’t sent it in to be accepted yet. The whole idea of this post is to tell you that you need to go back and have your novel reread by someone you trust before you send it out. Also, don’t be afraid to make changes, even drastic changes to your novel at any time. Nothing is finished until you truly feel it is the best you can do. If you have even one doubt about your work you should definitely get someone else to read it. As you can see, even having a critique group and a beta reader didn’t help me to see the flaws. I will say, though, that getting that criticism was like a punch to the gut. As I read all the things she had to say and then heard them again from her, I felt angry. However, as we both went over what she meant and bounced ideas off of each other, it gradually became less awful and I was happy she had been so honest. 

Of course, now that the plot is changed, I have to go back and rewrite the synopsis too. Also, my daughter hasn’t reread the finished manuscript, so I think it’s finished, but there may be more rewriting. I am hoping, though, that it is where it should be and I can send it in to my editor. Changes to the title were suggested too, but I like it and will keep it the same: When My Life Changed. Here is  some of the first chapter of it, if you are interested. Remember, it is still a WIP, so there may be more changes. 

Excerpt from When My Life Changed:

The phone rang as the ball left the pitcher’s glove and in a second as I saw Mom’s tears, I forgot all about the game. My life changed while the TV blurred and turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope. The moment it changed has been indelibly pressed in my thoughts. 
My sister, Diane, was upstairs hunched over her computer as usual. She’s not a baseball fan at all. But I lived and breathed for the Mets that Fall. They had such a great chance of getting the pennant and maybe even winning the World Series. I obsessed about the Mets and of course, Joey. 
Joey, my best friend from kindergarten, was always there for me. It’s hard to imagine a recess without him by my side. He’s bigger than me and always looked a little older than he was. Mom liked Joey, because he reassured her he would obey her rules. Maybe it’s his easy smile or his clear gray eyes.  
Lately, though, Joey and I weren’t so close. It happened during the summer when he was a counselor at this camp and  he hooked up with this girl Amber who goes to our school. So now he spent a lot of his time with her and we barely saw each other. We used to watch the Mets all the time together too. So I missed him being there with me, and his comments about the players. 
But all that was pre-phone call. Pre-pc my deepest thoughts centered on the Mets and finding the sweet spot for the ball in my new baseball glove. Pre-pc my world was worrying about homework getting done and wondering what lunch would be like on Monday. Oh and of course thinking about how to beat the next team we were up against in softball. I’m a starting pitcher this year and I want to show my coach she can believe in me. I’m only a sophomore, but I hope someday to play college softball so I can get a scholarship to go. My parents have already told me they can’t swing it without one.
Let me go back and tell a little bit about myself. First of all you might be thinking I’m a boy, but you’re wrong. My name is Lauren. I’m 15, and my sister is 17 and I’m one hundred percent female. We learned about stereotypes in social studies and thinking sports can be only a boy’s thing is one of those. The teacher used blondes and how people think they’re dumb or playing dumb. We had to come up with a few stereotypes of our own as our ticket to leave that day. It was then I realized that my own parents thought in stereotypes. 
I go against the stereotype for girls. I’ve always loved baseball and Joey loves it even more than I.
Our friendship goes against the stereotypes too. He and I clicked in kindergarten when on the first day of kindergarten Joey and I sat together and didn’t stop talking the whole morning. My parents told me when the teacher tried to separate us we both put our feet on the ground and refused to be moved. She let us sit together for the rest of the year. But the next year the teachers were onto us and separated Joey and me for the whole year in different classes. We’d see each other in the hallway and wave. Sometimes I’d have a little tear in my eye when I saw Joey and it didn’t go away for a long time.
Before the pc there I was, eyelids drooping, in front of the TV about to go upstairs to bed. Mom joined me for the last couple of innings. It looked like the Mets might do it.  Though I tried, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and raised my tall, lean body off the sofa placing one foot on the floor when the phone rang. Dad usually called Mom late when he worked nights, so I handed the phone to Mom and started upstairs. I didn’t get far. As soon as my foot touched the first step I heard Mom screaming into the phone. 

My first novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor is available at the Muse Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and Smashwords

Check out my blog, Barbara's Meanderings for interviews with many Muse authors and some who are not.:)


Unknown said...

Barbara, what a great reminder for all of us to take the time we need to get the story right.

I recently experienced a similar situation as you. I'd sent a book I loved for feedback, only to hear it wasn't anywhere near as lovely as I thought ;).

After I got over the hurt, I realized my CP was right and that it wasn't good enough. Fortunately I hadn't submitted it and was able to rewrite most of the storyline and make it better than I originally thought it was.

Suzanne Demontigny said...

I've been working on a novel that is so dear to me, but I knew there was something really wrong with it. I enrolled myself in a writing course where it was butchered and is still being butchered. Now I'm rewriting the entire thing. I refuse to give up on it because I really believe in the ms.
Barbara, I can't wait for your next book. I just loved the first.

Unknown said...

I had THE PROPHECY complete, and my friends gushed about it. So, I thought I was the sh-nizzle. An agent, who'd requested the full manuscript, offered me long detailed notes on the work. When I got over the shock and stopped to consider her suggestions, a whole new world emerged for me. I rewrote the whole thing, submitted it to Muse, and the rest is history. :)

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Thanks, Mary. The experience of learning your book isn't finished is much more emotional than anyone thinks. Having gone through the whole publishing and critique process I thought I was ready. Glad to see you were able to fix yours before you submitted. Sometimes you know something isn't right and it takes another pair of eyes to identify it:)

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Thank you, Suzanne!! So happy you did!!! If you liked this excerpt you will love this next one, but I haven't subbed it yet:) Fingers crossed!!

Sorry to hear about your ms being torn apart. I loved what I read of your book too and I have it in line to read:)

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Erin, welcome to Muse and I'm so happy you were able to publish your book!!

Thank you all for sharing your stories:)

Margaret Fieland said...

Barbara, I can relate. "Broken Bonds," which is coming out in July, went through three major rewrites. I gave the first version to a beta reader, convinced it was almost ready to send out, but she convinced me that I was telling the wrong story. I scrapped that version, and another partial version, and rewrote the novel from scratch with a different main character.

anne stenhouse said...

Yep! I'm only now realising the heroine in my 3rd 'proper' novel was in love with the wrong man, the timeline started at the wrong place and I didn't have a plot beyond 'boy meets girl'. Even for an instinctive writer (or Pantster) like me, that was a bit of a risk. Now the whole thing is marinating in the brain...

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Peggy, see it's always good to give it someone else you trust to read. They may not come back with the answers you want, but they make you think.

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Anne, I'm a "pantser" too, so going back and fixing the plot is always painful for me.:) Yet there are times when you do have to go back and rethink the whole thing. I hope it all turns out fine.

Wendy said...

Wise advice, Barbara. An editor who worked for a high profile agent told me, 'Don't blow your one chance by sending your manuscript to the publisher under-baked.'
The trick is knowing when the ms is cooked to perfection. For most authors the answer is 'never' and we keep tinkering and tweaking until it gets singed or even burnt.
Beta readers and critiquers are vital in this aspect of our writing.

Abu Zafar said...
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Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Wendy, perfectly said. ms's are very much like cakes. They have to be perfect before you send them. I've spent years working on mine and now I hope it is ready. I'm still waiting for my daughter's opinion.:)