I knew I was going to be talking to my editor about The Truth About Truman yesterday, so I reread the manuscript straight through on Thursday night. It really does help to take a break from a mansucript (I find that it also helps me to be able to sit down and read straight through with no interruption…and fortunately I’ve got my family well trained to leave me alone when I’m doing this)! My editor sent me an e-mail with her initial thoughts shortly after she read it (which was very soon after I sent it)…there was one point in that e-mail that I wasn’t sure I agreed with when I first read it. This is a multiple POV book and toward the end of the book I have three sections from one of the main character’s mother’s POV. When I first wrote those sections, I was a little hesitant about suddenly bringing in an adult…but I’d seen adult viewpoints in other MG multiple POV novels before. And ultimately I felt the mother had a unique perspective, and it was important to see her POV at that point in the story. But my editor felt that everything that was conveyed in those sections could just as easily be conveyed through one of the kid’s POVs. Well, yeah, I thought, but the kids aren’t going to know how that mother FEELS. After rereading the manuscript the other night, though, I think I agree with my editor. Readers are going to be more interested in how the main characters feel than they are how the main characters PARENTS feel. Plus they’ll still see how Mom feels…she’ll still appear in the scene. You’ll just see her filtered through one of the kids’ POVs. Which is probably how it should be. There’s nothing Mom knows that nobody else in the story knows, so there’s really no reason to move into her POV.
I’ve got another POV issue in the book, though. There’s an “Anonymous” POV that crops up in the story from time to time…Anonymous clearly knows more about the situation than the other characters do, and you find out at the end that Anonymous is also one of the other characters. But when you see that person’s POV under his or her name rather than under the “Anonymous” POV, you’re seeing a completely different side of that person (which is intentional…because the story is something of a whodunit, too). So that whole thing needs some attention. But I know how to take care of that. I can have Anonymous tell the reader that he or she is somebody they already know…and provide a reason why Anonymous isn’t coming clean on who he or she is.
We also talked about a few minor things that won’t be any big deal to fix, and then we talked about the ending (the major problem with the manuscript). The actual ending (i.e. the wrap up…which, BTW, wasn’t in the first couple of drafts I wrote) is fine…but the climax isn’t right. I’ve known that all along (my 12-year-old has known that all along!), but I haven’t known what the problem was or what to do about it. But as we were talking, it hit me: I DIDN’T ACTUALLY WRITE THE CLIMAX! (Did you tell me that, D.P.?) I sort of walked up to it, but then backed away without letting the scene unfold. I let the majority of the action happen offstage.
I still don’t know how I’m going to fix it…what happens in the climax (when it’s happening offstage) isn’t quite right, either. I need the whole thing to play out a little differently…and then I need so SHOW it playing out. So I finally know what’s wrong! I know what I have to do. I just don’t know how I’m going to do it just yet.
So, the first thing I did after I got off the phone with my editor was…I went out to lunch with my good friend, K.! Then because we had not seen enough of each other, we drove over to the Quad Cities to have breakfast with a group of children’s writers this morning and then we went over to Border’s Books after that (because we don’t have a Border’s here and there’s nothing like wandering through a bookstore with another writer!) Lunch, breakfast and trips to the bookstore are all very important in the writing process.
Then I came home and made a mess of my office. I pulled out all the books on my shelf that have sections on endings, climax, obligatory scene, denouement etc. These are the books I found:
The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray
Building Fiction by Jesse Lee Kercheval
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
Conflict, Action and Suspense by William Noble
Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen
Fiction First Aid by Raymond Obstfeld
Revision by David Madden
Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman
Story by Robert McKee
Between the Lines by Jessica Morrell
Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich
Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall
So I’m going to go through them and see if I can find some inspiration…