When you write BIG keep it small.

Lesson learned this week: 

Epic, Sweeping, and Grand, don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that…

Interpersonal, character-revealing, reflective expositive reveal of the character of your CHARACTERS.

Now, how’s that for a mouthful? 

130,000 words of Epic, Sweeping, and Grand manuscript hit my publisher’s desk with a thump. (Metaphorically, because I sent it as a word file) He lauded it as “terrific”, the plot fresh and ingenious, the new lead character totally carrying the novel, and the last two acts are overflowing with action (and he meant that in a good way).  He went on to say that he loved the scale of the story.

unnamedPretty good, right? Considering that my dear publisher slotted in Give Us This Day, my fifth book, “sight unseen” last year into his prestigious slate of releases for 2015 and the submission of the manuscript was his first hint as to what it was about. His trust in my work and me was unwavering and complete.

But…

After all that, praise, all that positive feedback, he made ONE, little teeny-weeny note. He said he’d have liked to have seen a little more “sense of fellowship” meaning that sense of companionship between the characters.  He was right. Due to the “fish-out-of–water” nature of the beginning of the story, I purposely wrote the characters as all business. What he felt he missed in this BIG story of mine was the little asides about life or quirks that he felt I did so well in my previous four novels, which he published.

SO NOW, PANIC!

Couldn’t sleep for a week. How to…, What to…, How will…, How does…, started and stopped a hundred mental debates in my head between me and the story.  I’d suggest a scenario in a specific place where a little personal jib-jab could occur and then the story side of me said, “Appears, forced!” “Doesn’t flow.” “Useless appendage here.” “Slows the story, as it’s building.”

Let me tell you, the story side of me is tough!

So, finally a week later, with my pen between my legs (Bad turn of the phrase, I realize, now that I wrote it) …tail between my legs, I asked my publisher “LIKE WHAT?”

At this point, I need to tell you that my publisher is a genius. Not because of what he says, but because of what he doesn’t needlessly say. In one succinct line, he ended my turmoil by name dropping one of my minor characters: Nigel. 

Cue the angelic music: Ahhhh Ahhhhhh. 

That was at 5:45 a.m. last Tuesday.  I was really late to the office that day because at 5:46 the whole missing human connection of my story laid out before me like a GPS map. The ‘tilty’ kind in 3D that looks like you’re up in a plane seeing all the way to Grandma’s house. I immediately saw all the good and further story interconnections that paid for the ink, this new facet of the novel consumed. This one drop of gold that he strategically placed in my brain energized and elevated the entire book – in at least four places in the story!  I eventually left for the office mid-morning! The book was 2200 words heavier, but a million times more wonderful.

I entered the office with a smile that most people would assume is due to having gotten lucky, the night before.  In fact, I had gotten lucky at 5:45 a.m. Actually, upon reflection, I got lucky years ago when I met, Lou Aronica of The Story Plant and he published my first book.

Now if I could just fix that other little nagging thing about the scandalous affair in the second act. 

Uh oh, panic rising…

“Vengeance is mine.” Sayeth the Author.

Vengence Graphic

​Sometimes characters do the darndest things… Like suddenly they show a side of themselves that I, their Lord and Creator, never imagined, intended or wrote. Such is the case with my dear sweet, Brooke Burrell. Now don’t get me wrong, she’s a tough warrior as well as a good investigator. Over the course of the four novels that I have known her, she was never vengeful or carried ill will. She of course did do some things that got her a raised eyebrow from her superiors. Mostly for on the spot improvising of procedures and methods that they never taught at the FBI academy at Quantico, but this time she shocked even me!

​Normally, I write bad guys who eventually get their just deserts. And “we” never go after them with anything other than purely professional, prosecutorial ends in mind. However, if these evildoer’s choose to turn and fight it out, well so much the better, good-riddens to the no-good. Up until now, with Brooke, it was never personal, just part of the job. But somewhere along the way, in my next book, Give Us This Day, this poor schmuck, Paul, must have gotten on Brooke’s S-list, because she left the story, walked away from her character profile and violated several laws in settling the score with this “walking cancer on humankind.”


The image of me sitting at the keyboard, mouth open in shock at what she just did is maybe not the most flattering picture of me as a confident, able, top of my game author, but it is nonetheless where I found myself… My immediate thought as I reached for the delete key was, did I just lose the Brooke Burrell fan club? My finger hovered over the top right most ‘destruct’ key as I pondered. Did the words and actions on the screen before me amount to a literary death warrant or divine inspiration. In the end, I did what any courageous, confidant and in full command of my craft author would do, I let it stay in the manuscript, so the editor can make the call. Sometimes… I am such a wimp.

Blog note: The next episode of the Accidental Author goes live on Thursday.

Getting Buzz

I was recently on The Business Buzz with host Jeff Sherman and Marty Keena to discuss aspects of writing a novel including character and plot.

 

Authors of the Round Table

Recently, I was invited to participate in the ITW Thriller Round Table, which (as I dust my shoulders off) is quite an honor. The topic on everyone’s mind: “How do you separate the author from your characters?” Here’s my two cents which is worth a million dollars.

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