Monday

Tightrope

Last week, I officially submitted my first manuscript to my editor at Thomas Nelson.

She has already seen the manuscript, of course, because the editorial staff read it in order to decide whether to buy it.

Nonetheless, every manuscript in my contract has a submission date, and so I had a few weeks to give my first novel another quick edit before I hit "send."

Now I'm waiting for my first editorial letter, which will contain my editor's initial feedback and suggestions.

While I wait, I'm working on a major rewrite of the second novel in the series, which I actually wrote BEFORE the first novel.

When I say "the first novel," it's a little confusing even for my critique partners to remember which novel we're discussing. Do we mean the first one I wrote, or the first one in the series, which is the second one I wrote?

For the sake of clarity, I guess I can call one the 1825 novel, and the other the 1855 novel.

I just submitted the 1825 novel.

I'm currently rewriting the 1855 novel. This is a serious rewrite.

A major edit like this one often feels like walking a tightrope.

Every writer must find the balance between an exciting, realistic plot, and a melodramatic mess.

I just escalated a problem in the fourth chapter of my 1855 novel. In general, increasing conflict is good. But critique partners help a writer to determine the exact point at which the conflict becomes too big or too tiring for a reader.

If the stakes are too low and the situation too ordinary, the novel may just slip down into that crack of doom between the bed and the wall, and the reader will never miss it. But if every chapter is hard on the nerves, the story may become annoying, and that means it's trash can time!

A novel must lure the reader into its fictional world, not bludgeon her over the head and haul her around by the hair.

In addition to changing the story, I'm eliminating a major, major character in this 1855 novel. I expect a gasp from my partner Lorena when I tell her this character is gone. :-) But writing the 1825 novel changed the 1855 novel, as if I traveled backwards in a time machine and rearranged history. It's a very odd experience to write novels out of chronological order. In the future, I'll try to stick to a straightforward timeline!

I can't wait to hear what my writer-pals say about the changes. They've never yet been wrong about issues of balance and realism.

How do you decide when enough is enough? Do you tend to overwrite plot and have to tone things down, or underwrite and have to pump things up?