I spend hours and days and weeks figuring a story out. Plan and plot and scheme. Fill out my charts. Figure out Goals and Motivation and Conflict. Delve into backstory. Bring my hero and heroine together and find out what brings them there and what keeps them apart. What will they learn from the events of the story and from each other. I’m an outliner so I figure out the story beats and how they will flow into each other. Which events belong in which part of the story. Is this a Trailer Moment? Tests and Allies? Turning point? Moment of Grace? Dark Moment?
These last few sentences represent a lot of work and thinking and planning. So I put together my story. Make it the very best I can be. Wring out the emotions and etc. Spend hours and days and weeks writing that story out. Choose the right words, the correct order of the sentences. Spend another bunch of hours and days and weeks editing. There. Done my best and off to my editor it goes…..
And back it comes with a thud.
Boring. Repetitive. Story drags. I like this but I don’t like that. The conflict needs to be upped. Back story needs to be downed. This is great, this needs work and this is a problem.
What? I did my very best. I struggled and angsted and chose and deliberated. And now I need to fix it? Oh the agony. The defeat! The stress!
I look at the editing points and think, I. Can’t. Do. This. I thought this story was complete. I spent hours and days and weeks working every angle. Wringing out every possibility from the story. Even worse I think, I am a failure as a writer. I’ve written 50 books and I still can’t get it right.
It’s disheartening no matter how many times I deal with edits. I can’t imagine what else I need to do to a story that I’ve already done so much work on. I can’t wring one more thing out of my brain. I can’t fix this story.
Then I call up my crit partner. I sigh and moan and she commiserates because she’s been there too. I go over the letter, over the story and we talk and brainstorm and think and talk and plan and take apart. We see what works, what doesn’t. We throw out crazy ideas and negate them but then latch onto a glimmer and tease it and pull it out and work it through.
And slowly, so slowly, ideas come and things don’t seem so dire and then, all of a sudden, the light comes through. And the thing I didn’t think I could do, the story I can’t see any different has taken on another form. Has moved into another direction and has come together better.
I don’t like these moments. I don’t like feeling like I’ve let my editor down. Because I haven’t. She has taken my work, then done her job. Looked it at from her differing perspective, found what’s missing and passed it onto me. She’s my partner and our project, together, is this book. And each time I think I can’t do it, I can. I get help and things get figured out and every time I go through these moments that I think I can’t….I do and I always learn something.
So when you see those books sitting on a bookshelf or in a store, I just want to remind you that they didn’t come there completely formed. They didn’t magically flow out of a writer’s head and onto the paper and then into a book. There were many processes involved, many thoughts used and discarded, edits and changes and nurturing along the way. If you’re working on a story now and were told it doesn’t work and you think it can’t be changed….it can. It always can. And when you do the work, it will be better.
If you want to find out more about my books, none of which came completely formed into the world, all of whom were agonized over and done and re-done, go to my website, www.carolyneaarsen.com.
For now, I want to put a plug in for my latest book, Courting the Cowboy out already, a book that went through it’s own processes and changes.
Meeting the Cowboy’s Family
Looking for inspiration, artist Ella Langton rents a cabin in the isolated Porcupine Hills of Alberta. She didn’t count on having neighbors, but rancher Cord Walsh and his three children are just a stone’s throw away. Still healing from a tragic accident, Ella has no plans of reaching out, but she’s having a hard time keeping them out of her yard…and her thoughts. And when little Suzy ropes Ella into helping her with an art project, she can’t help her growing feelings for the girl’s rugged daddy. With three persistent children, Cord and Ella may find their fenced-off hearts opening up sooner than they thought!
Click on the book cover to purchase.