Saturday, June 17, 2006

Building from the Ground Up

For the last year or so (oh, heck -- thirteen months to be exact), I've been involved in the complete renovation of our home. Every room we tackle ends up giving us unexpected and pretty much unwelcome surprises -- more work to be done, hidden problems beneath the walls and floors. There have been times when we've been tempted to just give in and give up, go for the huge mortgage and build from the ground up.

The last day or so, I've been looking at my planned revisions on HOTM with the same eye. It's the book of my heart, and the characters have been with me forever, it seems. I believe it has potential, and I've spent the last month or so identifying the structural problems with it.

The problem is that every time I sit down with a hard copy and try framing it (my preferred method of revision with a completed manuscript), I can't do it. It's too much; I get frustrated and put it aside. Instead, I started outlining revision notes within my much beloved Carribbean-blue notebook, where I also keep my budget notes, promotion notes, and renovation ideas. That's helped me stay focused by streamlining what needs to be done.

And it pointed out one very scary reality: I'm going to have to build HOTM from the ground up. Again.

That means instead of working within the original manuscript, I'm writing a new book. Starting with a blank document, old ideas blended with new ones. It's the only way to make this monster work. For the most part, I have to pretend the 411 pages that I've already written about Tick and Cait don't exist, and you know, they really don't -- with the new backstory line I'm looking at, Tick and Cait have both changed. They're different people. Hopefully stronger people. Their story will be different.

Only the ending, that shimmering promise of an HEA, will remain the same.

I guess I need to go lay a foundation.


Theresa said...


I'm new to your blog. But this post really struck a cord with me. You're describing exactly what I just finished doing. Only I didn't do it just once, I did it over and over again--all on the same book.

I wrote that book five or six times totally from the ground up.

It was my second book and it had a dynamite premise and such strong characters--but I wasn't a strong enough writer to do it justice. Yet I couldn't let it go, either.

Instead, I just kept working on it. I basically taught myself how to write on it. With each draft I learned a new element. How to do deep characterization, how to balance pace with setting, how to write compelling dialog. . .the list goes on and on.

Most people learn how to write through a three or four book course. I learned on one. Throwing draft after draft away and totally rewriting from the ground up, once I'd realized that the one element was set, but the others needed work.

As my writing and structuring and ploting got better--each draft got better. But there would still be so many problems inherent by the time I reached the END, it was easier to just start over.

I don't recommend this approach to anyone. I've literally been working on this one book for years.

But I did learn how to write through all these years of try. I learned how to plot, how to dig deep into my characters-- how to mix paranormal with suspence and not lose the romance.

I learned all the aspects of good storytelling. So I don't regret the process. And now that this sucker is FINALLY finished and out the door, and I'm working on the new WIP, I'm extremely relieved to find out that all that stubborness paid off.

Because I can already tell that what I learned on the one book, is impacting this new one. I'm already mixing all the elements during this first draft. And its incredibly clean. I might have to do one quick rewrite after this one is finished, but that will be all.

It's a remarkable difference.

Carol B. said...

You know I feel your pain - seeing as I'm doing the same thing. Weird, huh, that we're working on the same books we were working on about this same time--what--3 years ago?