As you know, I was working on the revisions of THE BRIDE PRIZE these past few days. These were the hardest revisions I’ve ever done (mainly because I didn’t properly plan the story from the get-go), and there was a lot of red on the pages. Like, A LOT!
In the end, I was so very frustrated that I decided to switch colours to make the pages look a little less horrid. And with a little help from my friends (in the picture below you can see a promo pen Debra Holland gave me when we met at the IndieUncon in San Francisco back in February) I muddled through a few more chapters, until….
….until I hit a major, major roadblock. I grappled with that one scene for days and days and days and DAYS. And it was beyond depressing because I just couldn’t figure out how to resolve this dratted scene — until this afternoon!!! Wheee!!!!
Well, actually, I had already scribbled what eventually became the solution onto a post-it the night before: just before I went to bed, the Muse struck me over the head. 🙂
After a final read-through tomorrow morning, both THE BRIDE PRIZE and DEVIL’S RETURN will go to my copy editor, and for me it’s then on to A TANGLED WEB (which will probably be a similarly hard nut to crack as THE BRIDE PRIZE – oh joy!)
Today, I was once again on doggie-walking duty. 🙂
I’m also still hard at work at the revisions for THE BRIDE PRIZE. At the moment my characters are at a tournament (which is not exactly surprising, given that half of the novella takes place during the aforementioned tournament). As per my editor’s suggestions, I’m working on increasing the conflict between hero and heroine. In this particular scene it needs to be clearer that he regards the whole tournament thing as a rather silly affair. Sooo….. (insertions in red)
Around them the crowd fell silent as the knights retired to their tents in order to don their helmets and await the formal challenge to combat. Yes, very much in the manner of Ivanhoe (though minus the nasty Prince John and the general bloodlust of the audience) and as good a show as anything you might see on a London stage.
Here and there a few laughs could be heard as the jester rode across the field, swinging his bells in a somewhat dampened tingle over his head.
And then, finally, a blast of trumpets sounded, and the first challenge of the day was issued: the Knight of the Swan sent his defiance to the Knight of the Golden Lion. Having donned their helmets, both knights rode forth, plumes fluttering in the wind.
Everyone around the lists seemed to hold their breath. This was it! This was why they had come here from all corners of the kingdom; indeed, even from all corners of the world!
Breathless excitement gripped the stands & slopes, Robbie scribbled into his sketchbook right next to a very hasty drawing of a round gentleman staring in open-mouthed wonder at the silly spectacle unfolding in front of his eyes.
We do so need somebody for satirical illustrations, Robbie thought ruefully.
The knights took their positions on opposite sides of the barrier that had been set up for the tilting.
Miss Florence sighed happily. “Isn’t it wonderful? It’s so –“
Another blast of trumpets, and the knights rode furiously — or at least as furiously as was possible in the rain, which was not very furious at all — towards each other… further and further… and past each other, without so much as scratching their shields, let alone splintering anybody’s lances.
For tackling Chapter 3, I had a very special editorial assistant today:
Editorial assistant. Which means you’re helping me to improve my book.
“Does that mean I’ll get a treat?”
“No treat, no assistance!”
I did indeed manage to condense Chapters 1 and 2 into one single chapter (YAY!); and now I’m cutting away at Chapter 3.
Btw, did you know that there were horse-drawn railways? Neither did I until I researched this scene. 🙂
… in order to increase the general confusion. This is the page from the second pic in my last post. Cut even more stuff. Snip-snap.
I call this “My Editor Made Me Do It”: it’s Chapter 1 in all its red glory. Quite a frightful sight, isn’t it?
And the next pic shows the beginning of Chapter 2, which isn’t much better. But at least the cutting has become easier. Yay! However, I need to cut a lot more text if I want to merge those two chapters into one. *sigh*
(I’d also like to know why the heck my pictures come out so very dark when I upload them here. Until two or three days ago, I’ve never had this problem before. Grrr….)
The aim for Chapter 1: cutting and adding conflict.
More cutting!!!! And setting up some of the conflict.
We could cut even MORE…
See? Totally killing my darlings. Even such nice paragraphs as:
By the same token, Mr. Marsh considered modern forms of book publication a real horror. He did not buy serial installments, and he held Mr. Dickens responsible for having dragged that beautiful institution of English literature down into the muddy waters of serialisation.
(For THE BRIDE PRIZE I might have to put a section with deleted scenes into the enhanced edition….)
Moreover, if the reader wonders why the heck the heroine’s aunt is so excited about a tournament, perhaps the heroine, too, should wonder why her aunt is so excited about a tournament.
I have to admit that I dreaded grappling with the revisions of this story. Normally, when I do revisions, I go through a manuscript page by page and insert stuff as I go along. I tried this with THE BRIDE PRIZE this morning, then gave up and did some other work because it was all so very depressing.
By early afternoon, I knew I had to do a mind map in order to get a grip of the story, but abandoned that shortly after posting the entry before this one (because it was all so very depressing *sob*).
About an hour ago, I finally put on my big-girl-pants and sat down and just did it: mind-mapping the story as it is. Afterwards, I put off the inevitable (i.e., reading my editor’s suggestions very, very carefully) (this bit is always such a torment – at least for me – because you have to face up to the fact that parts of your story are less than splendid and you have to be brutally honest to yourself in order to get rid of these parts) and added the first layer of colour: some blue and red bubbles to indicate hero/heroine’s POV. And finally, I tackled the problem areas (I used a pretty purple pen* to make this bit slightly less painful) (* a promo pen from Valerie Bowman): I worked with my editor’s suggestions and noted down on the mind map where improvements are needed. Luckily, Bev gave me some really brilliant suggestions, so it really wasn’t as painful as I had feared.
One of the main problems with this story is that it lacks conflict. I knew that while I was still writing it and I worried that it bit be just a bit bland because the romance runs so very smoothly, but I just couldn’t figure out a way out to change that. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have a content editor whom you trust and who understands your stories: you need that second pair of eyes. You need somebody whom you trust to be honest about the strength and weaknesses of your story; somebody who understands your way of telling a story enough to make suggestions that will really improve your story, while still being true to yourself and your storytelling.
In this respect, I have been very, very lucky indeed: I had this with Chris Keeslar, my editor at Dorchester, and I have it now with Bev Katz Rosenbaum, my editor of my indie books. She was actually the first content editor I picked, and I feel so very blessed to have found her!
What do you do when you’re stuck? You make a plan – or, in my case, a mind map in order to figure out what is supposed to go where and how to heighten the conflict in this story. I love mind maps because they enable you to see the whole story on one page, which makes it easier to spot common themes and motifs (or to strengthen those).
I used a mind map to plot DEVIL’S RETURN, and I only needed to make some minimal changes to the story. I didn’t use a mind map to plot THE BRIDE PRIZE, and look where it has got me! When will I ever learn? *sigh*