Chapters Full of Conflict

August 29, 2012

After weeks away from writing, I’m back at it. Well, I’m preparing to get back to it. Preparation started with reading six chapters for my CP, providing her with feedback, and then reading seven chapters of revised work from my most recently rejected manuscript. For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised by my work. But when I got to chapter six, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing…something that needed to happen wasn’t happening.

Where was the conflict?

As I revise this manuscript based in part on editorial feedback, I’m trying something new to me—I’m making a conscious effort to have something big happen in every chapter. Conflict. You may wonder why I wasn’t doing that before. I thought I was, and I was shocked when an editor in so many words pointed out that I wasn’t in her rejection. I thought that answering the question, “What’s the most important part of this chapter?” would keep the story moving along.

I was wrong.

The problem with that question is that even a boring, lousy chapter will have a most important part. That doesn’t mean it’s important to the whole story. My answers were often things like, “There’s foreshadowing there. A smart reader will remember back to this chapter once they read ahead to chapter ten.” Gah. That sounds like too much work for a reader who simply wants to be entertained. And believe me, I’m not writing puzzlers. There’s no mystery or suspense. I write to entertain and elicit feeling. Foreshadowing alone doesn’t make a compelling chapter.

Another answer I liked to use: “The most important part of this chapter is the interaction between H and H, because the reader gets to see how they could be good for each other.” And that’s a good thing, but it gets boring if that’s all that happens in a chapter, let alone in multiple chapters in a row.

So today, I’m going to figure out what’s supposed to happen in Chapter 6, so that I can strengthen that chapter and move on the rest. How about you? Are you tackling any problems in your manuscript today?


2 Responses to “Chapters Full of Conflict”

  1. I’ve got an entire chapter (three chapters back) that I have to rewrite. I had planned it a different way and then decided it was too complicated and combined two characters into one. Unfortunately, when I went back I realized I’d thereby stepped into a huge puddle of cliche. So back up and re-do. BTW, do you mean that you entertain with illicit feeling? 🙂 Or you entertain and elicit feeling?

    • LOL. Elicit. LOL. Those two words give me trouble, and I made a mental note while writing this post to verify the usage, but obviously forgot by the end. Thanks for the catch…

      Huge puddles of cliche get in my way too. Good luck navigating around yours. 🙂


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