A HERO'S SPARK: the final book in the Wicked Women series!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing a new chapter while keeping the old one.

Good morning!

Skating history was made last night in Vancouver when a North American Team (Canadian, to be specific) took gold in Ice Dancing, breaking the Russian/Soviet 30 plus year grip on the medal. Now, a Russian pair did hold on to get the bronze, keeping alive the streak of medals in the event. (The US pair took silver, BTW.)

The announcers said over and over how it was a "new chapter" in Ice Dancing, with the success of these upstart North American pairs in an event long held by Eastern Europe. Whether you're a fan of ice dancing (I am) or you don't think it's a sport (I don't, I just happen to love the beauty of it) or even if you're just a fan of the Olympics (I am, OF COURSE!) you know that last night's competition and results were significant.

This Olympics has been all about writing a new chapter for the US. I don't have to think too far back to remember a Winter Olympics where the US were barely a blip on the radar in events like Skiing, bobsled, and men's figure skating. We pinned all of our national hopes on the young, unlikely legs of some teen aged girl as she jumped and twirled on her skates. This time around, we've already struck multiple gold on the slopes, we hold a gold in men's figure skating, and don't look now, but our hockey team just toppled mighty Canada. (Not exactly a miracle like 1980 Lake Placid, but impressive all the same.) Oh, and we got a medal in Nordic combined! How unlikely is that?

The same is true when you sit down to work on a story or on a novel. (See, I brought it back to writing!) You've got notes, you've got an outline. (Well, if you're really good you have an outline. If you're like me, you have some notes and a few sketchy paragraphs.) You know where you want a story to go, probably, but getting there seems really unlikely. Sort of like the US getting a medal in Nordic Combined.

Sometimes getting to where you want to be with a story means writing a whole new chapter. It means cutting, deleting, erasing, or throwing away the old chapters that don't work. Don't be afraid to say, "As much as I like this chapter, and I'm comfortable with it, it's not working in my story. It needs to go and I need to write a new chapter."

By the same token, take a close look at what is working in your story. What do you really like? Don't throw it all out, keep that foundation that started the whole thing. For example, if you read a very early version of what is now "Lies in Chance" you wouldn't even recognize it. At some point, several years ago, I looked at the manuscript and said, "None of this is working. It has to go." But I kept three very key things that I loved. 1) I kept the friendship between Bryan and Drew. 2) I kept Shara's back story. 3) I kept the barn fire scene.

Yep, I threw out roughly six hundred pages of work (Because it was a two book masterpiece at one point, yikes) and kept two elements and one scene. And now it's a book I'm proud of, and excited to see move forward in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel awards this year.

With "Dream in Color" I didn't throw out much...I had to add quite a lot because that was way too short for mainstream publication. Oddly enough, even though I thought the book was done...there were all sorts of new chapters to be built on the old ones.

So take a look at your work in progress. What's working, what's not? Don't be afraid to throw out parts and hold on to parts. Do not fear writing that new chapter!


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