Tuesday, April 03, 2007


"I work continuously within the shadow of failure. For every novel that makes it to my publisher's desk, there are at least five or six that died on the way."
~Gail Godwin

So yesterday I was working on my latest WIP, One Night in Memphis, and I had a realization.

My heroine is boring.

Really. She’s fairly one-dimensional. Predictable in behavior. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t know what her growth is supposed to be in the story. From the start, this novel was much more about the hero’s growth than the heroine’s. But that doesn’t really make for a great romance, so I had to rethink. A lot.

First I got frustrated. I thought about abandoning the project and starting something brand new. Still, I’m 37,000 words in, and I’d hate to throw it all away.

So I sat down and tried to work through who she is, where she’s going, what motivates her, and how I want her to change by the end. I finally got some decent ideas, though I have to admit that I’m still not crazy about her.

I went back through a lot of the earlier chapters and added some stuff, deleted other stuff, until it feels a little stronger. I’m still not sure. I don’t know if I’ll like this story or think it’s marketable when I finish it. I’d hate to think I spent well over a year on it, only to have it turn out a project that’s better shelved than living in the light of day.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever given up on a story halfway through, or tried to resurrect it only to find you couldn’t? Do you have manuscripts hidden away that will probably never make it into a query letter? Or do you have tips for performing major surgery on a story to save it from that fate?

I suppose it’s a learning process. But it’s still frustrating. Sigh.


In other, much better news, the Cleveland Indians won their season opener! Those of you who are observant will notice that, yes, I do live roughly an hour from Yankee Stadium. And no, I do not cheer for the Yankees. I didn't discover pro baseball until I was in graduate school and living in Cleveland, and so for better or for worse, I'm an Indians fan for life.

Thank goodness for brand new seasons!


Charity said...

Oh, hang in there, whatever you decide. Have you tried Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook? I find that the absolute best tool for this kind of revision.

It's not a panacea, but I think it really helps.

Marianne Arkins said...

I can't ever seem to really give up, even when something seems unfixable (is that a word?). I may let it sit for a while, but the fact is, something attracted me to the idea enough that I wanted to write it.

Most recently, though, I swiped my hero from my NaNo novel and gave him a new heroine. You did something like that with Summer, as I recall. Is that an option?

I like ONIM. Don't give up.

bunnygirl said...

Can one of your secondary characters help out? I find that sometimes my more colorful supporting characters give my MCs just the kind of push they need.

Tricia Jones said...

Stick with it (and her), Allie. I've been working for ages on a short contemporary and while I love my hero, the heroine seems not to know what she wants. Driving me insane. I've found that working on something else for a while, and letting her percolate in the back of my mind, helps. Not that the heroine of my 'something else' story hasn't had her moments ;-)

MaryF said...

I've set about half a dozen stories aside because I couldn't make it work. I thought my WIP might be one, but it's finding life again. I'm just pushing forward.