So, last week I turned in my revisions to A CURIOUS BEGINNING, the first Veronica Speedwell mystery, and then my editor responded with a quick list of tweaks–very small stuff which I insisted on making into BIG stuff by rewriting two scenes in a pretty major way and tweaking several others. I’ve never done this before at this late stage, but between having a very accommodating editor and a very limited time to world build before writing the book, I had a chance and I took it. The end result is that I LOVE this book. Editor agrees it’s much stronger with the changes and it’s off her desk and on to copy editor. PHEW.
There’s a lesson here about following your gut because these were scenes that kept niggling at me. I’d revise and say, “Eh, it’s fine.” Which means, of course, that it most certainly is NOT fine. Who wants to write ‘fine’? You want a scene you’re excited to share with readers, and a ‘fine’ scene isn’t going to cut it. That’s become my signal to dig VERY deeply into a scene and figure out what’s off.
In the case of this book, there were two main strategies I used to improve scenes that felt off. First, I changed up the character driving the action. (This goes back to the tip I shared with you from Phillip Margolin.) I put some action into the hands of my heroine which made her stronger and more decisive. But I also changed a few scenes to let my lead male–her sidekick–drive a little. I don’t want her to overpower him because he’s a strong guy. But she is a force of nature, and it seemed appropriate to have her push more of the story along. So I gave her free rein and it worked very well–much more in keeping with who she is.
The second strategy was to keep striking out back story and open discussions of relationship dynamics. Sometimes NOT knowing why a character behaves a certain way is the right choice–ESPECIALLY in a series. We have lots of books to explore these particular people, and having only hints at the start is tantalizing. The same goes for discussing the dynamics of their relationships. British Victorians would tend to be–and this is a gross oversimplification–a little more reticent on the subject of feelings than modern day Americans. It’s fine to let them just smooth things over without voicing their emotions and attachments and resentments and grudges. It can often be the root of future conflict. In this case, it was definitely better to stick to the adages about less is more and showing not telling. I’m a big fan of rule breaking, but it can be extremely helpful to revisit the rules to see if they are applicable.
This wraps up our discussions of revisions. Huge thanks to Nancy for prompting the last few entries!
I’ll leave you with this clip from Ira Glass offering some serious wisdom about taking your time with your process and being patient with your development as an artist. Some truly good stuff there.