Welcome to the second installment of Anatomy of a First Book. The initial post titled The Value of a Second Opinion began the chronicle of my, rather my editor Kathy and my journey to the publication of, as the title suggests, my first book.
Ever notice how we writers always seem to speak in the possessive? But, I digress.
Honorable Intentions is a contemporary romance which can best be described as Anna and The King sail to Alaska with his out of wedlock, teenaged daughter complicated by Father Knows Best meets The Nanny.
Having brought Chase and Samantha, two decidedly diverse souls together despite their erroneous preconceptions about each other, the time had come in their story for me to cruelly rip them apart. And, oh how I worked on the details of that Big Black Moment.
Circumstances neither could control had Samantha teetering on the brink of emotional collapse and I was there to shove her over the edge. She went from fighting tears to dying inside as she shredded her own heart and tossed it aside. In the name of love, I took her through a virtual sawmill of emotion not once but twice before letting her out the other side.
All the while, she presented a brave front for Chase’s benefit. And he had no idea her decision to walk away was to allow him to preserve and grow the tenuous relationship he’d come to have with his daughter.
Their break-up scene, in my mind at least, was just short of a masterpiece. (Tongue firmly in cheek here.) The scene, again in my mind if no one else’s, had it all. Love, desire, sexual tension, longing, regret, sacrifice, honor and heightened feelings turned raw.
As noted in my last Anatomy of a First Book post, the initial edit requests were mild. I’d neglected to complete some story arcs I was able to rework with relative ease and a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that attitude. Enter revision suggestion number two regarding that all important break-up passage. Roughly quoted, she said: “I think this scene would be much stronger from the hero’s point of view.”
Say WHAT? My mind screamed then went on in a quieter tone. But, it’s done. The scene is done. Finished. Completed. Hadn’t she seen I put Final in the subject line of the e-mail my manuscript was attached to?
Not only that, the BBM was written and re-written until it was one hundred percent right. Correct. Spit and polished to editorial perfection.
And she wanted it changed.
Unable to wrap my head around the enormity of that request right away, I did the only thing I could think to do; I did nothing from a writing standpoint, though I did take some form of action. Entering my office, I paced, I sputtered, with the door closed of course. After which I faced due east—oh yeah, I know where she lives—and let loose a stream of mild obscenities. Nothing major, mind you. More like a two year old stomping her foot and yelling unintelligibles because the world isn’t revolving quite the way she wants it to, i.e. around her.
I then performed the next activity to come naturally, I procrastinated.
It’s amazing what one can find to do when we don’t want to do what we’re supposed to. To provide insight into the depths of my desperation, some of the actions I took actually had to do with cleaning house and cooking. That’s how bad it was. All of which came to an abrupt end when I found myself standing alone in our bathroom, looking into the mirror above the sink, as I removed the lint from my hairdryer with a dental pick. Uh-huh, that was a definite low point, or I should say a turning point for me.
Because you know what? It got me moving. I ripped into that BBM chapter with the same passion that would make any self-respecting protagonist sit up and take notice.
If my editor wanted a perfectly good and completed scene rewritten so be it. I could do this. I’d show her. . .I’d. . .I’d. . .discovered the scene was so much stronger written in the hero’s voice.
Oh, why didn’t I see this before? Of course, the scene SHOULD be told from Chase’s point of view. His emotions were totally under control from the get go. Or so he and I thought.
While in the original manuscript my heroine gave up the hero for his own good and to preserve the future he was sure to have with his daughter, in the rewrite, the hero gave up the heroine because he determined he had nothing to offer her AND began to doubt he had much more to give his daughter. Talk about pain and desolation. This guy who had been stoic, strong and in charge throughout, was all of a sudden reduced to a heap of regret and misery he, or I, hardly recognized much less expected.
As I look at the book now, Samantha came into the story with more baggage she and I knew she would have to overcome. Chase, on the other hand, entered believing his life was okay although could have been better. In short, the scene in his voice worked because he had more to lose; rather there was more he needed to come to realize.
What’s neat is the entire process only served to confirm a little come to realize knowledge for me. One, a second pair of eyes never hurts. And two, while writing is a solitary journey, editing is not.
Thank goodness for that.
[Up Next: She still hated the ending.]
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