Headed in the Wrong Direction

March 16, 2011

I’ve had my share of false starts. It happens all the time when I’m writing an article. In all forms of writing those first lines are critical. You’ve got to grab the reader then go for it before they have a chance to think about turning away.
In non-fiction, a false start is generally pretty easy to clean up but a false start on a work of fiction is something else entirely.
This week I realized that after 10,000, I was headed down the wrong path. The scenes weren’t flowing as well as they had been and on closer examination I realized my problem. I was pushing my hero to care about something that he didn’t really care about. That meant he wasn’t motivated to step out of his comfort zone and investigate a murder (he’s an actor by trade) and that’s a problem. A big one.
To be sure, I ran the story by a friend and then said, so, would you believe Hayden’s going to go investigate this case now? Now? Nope. He’s not motivated enough, she said and I knew I was sunk. I knew I had been forcing my characters to do what I wanted, not what they wanted and that meant I had rewriting to do.
Sadly, it wasn’t just a case of driving back a couple of miles then going left instead of right. It meant going back to the beginning of the story so I could present the mystery in a way that was more connected to my hero.
I know that the change is the right thing, but sitting here with the prospect of rewriting 10,000 words doesn’t make me happy. Mostly because it means I’m not moving forward – though in a way, I am. If I had left things the way they were, the rejection letters would have come in saying what I knew to be true. Not believable. Why would he get involved? Where’s the emotion? Where are the stakes?
And so, this weekend, I will be rewriting those pages and my book will be stronger for it, because beginnings are important and not just for the reader.


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