My sister is an amazing sewer of vintage patterns. I was talking with her about how I’d just started the 4th draft of a short story. I had a great title, a great protagonist and a solid plot. So why was I on attempt #4?
Just like a sewing machine, it was the tension. If you’ve ever sewn, many times the problem is the tension–thread is too tight or too loose, so the fabric bunches up or gets stuck or the stitches won’t hold.
With some digging, I realized what was wrong. The tension in my story was off because the murder took place in the heroine’s past, distancing the reader, and the victim wasn’t important enough to her.
With some tinkering, I adjusted the plot and wrote it again–this time, the beta readers were delighted.
Here are some more great tips on upping and maintaining tension from Writer’s Digest: up the stakes, reduce backstory, more emotion.
Any other good tips to fix a story’s tension?
It took 4 rejections to feel acceptance and even a hint of gratitude. How often I’ve written something, only to improve on it a few days later–the same theory surely applies to my book?
Besides motivating me to polish the book, I’m also encouraged to write short stories in the interim. It feels so good to get something done quickly compared to 75K slogs!
They give me an excellent chance to practice my craft. Quick character studies, story arc, plotting, all of the same principles apply for mystery stories.
I’ve gotten through 3 completed short stories and 2 partials that I’m trying to fix. That’s 3 fully realized plots with clues and suspects and such, which ought to help me with the longer books.
Next up… my 300 page novel needs a major revision… whew!
Today’s rejection feels a bit like this quote from Harry Potter. I was really excited about how responsive this agent has been. But she was awesome in rejection, at least. She gave me detailed feedback on major issues she saw with the manuscript.
One issue could be solved with some thorough editing of voice, but the other requires a potentially massive rewrite of the plot. I’ll certainly let the manuscript rest for a few weeks before starting.
In the meantime, I’ve been writing short stories. After the pacing of 75K word novels, a 4-7K short story seems to fly by! Hopefully it is good practice with plotting and characterization, a chance of publication and a quick-but-positive outcome.
What’s the tipping point for rewriting a novel?
An ancient grudge turns to murder in a quiet English village, 1817.
Book 4 in the Regency series finds the spirited rector’s daughter Lucy Harrington and her protective fiance Major Kurland preparing to marry. While judging vegetables at the local fair, Lucy warns him to be diplomatic in his choice of winners. His refusal leads to a storm of outrage among the villagers, who are furious when the verger at the rectory wins.
It isn’t long before Lucy literally trips over the verger’s dead body in a tragic accident. Lucy grows suspicious when they discover a cursed charm by the body and they soon realize that the death was actually murder. While trying to uncover the killer, Lucy must deal with the unpleasant cook who shares her father’s bed, and the frustrating delay in her nuptials. The village’s darker side begin to surface and the couple themselves are placed in grave danger as another body is found.
The murderer’s reasoning is somewhat weak and the couple lose a little of their previous fire, but it’s a light, enjoyable read.
Thanks to NetGalley for the 30-day ebook loan.