Friday, January 11, 2008

Making a Literary Life Friday: AHA! Moments

They're a gift, of course. One you weren't expecting. When you make a sudden realization about your writing or your work in progress (WIP), the fog lifts, you see clearly. There are times when you suddenly perceive a character's motivation or understand why a certain plot point is missing (wasn't it obvious?) Each of us has had an AHA! moment about our work. What's yours?

Mine came last week. In a blog entry a couple weeks back, Lynne mentioned a book, The Anatomy of a Story by John Truby. I bought it a few days back and started reading it last week. Well, thanks Lynne (and author John Truby). My AHA moment came when I read these lines in chapter 2:

"Determine your best character in your idea: 'Best' doesn't mean 'nicest.' It means the 'most fascinating, challenging and complex,' ... The reason you want to tell a story about your best character is that this is where your interest, and the audience's interest, will inevitably go."

Well, my best character in my WIP isn't my main character. Sad, but true. My New Hampshire girl has been changing in the past twenty-four hours in my mind. That was an AHA! moment.

Well, my Aha! came in the mail. Line edits by my editor, Sally Kim. At first I was staggered by the amount of ink, and then by the care she took with each and every word, comma, graf break. I so appreciate her efforts and trust her instincts. Who said editors no longer edit? My second Aha! came when I realized TETHERED was actually going to be published and read by people. Oh my goodness, I never really considered how high-profile this is and just how vulnerable it feels. 1-2-3, breathe...

Another Aha! (not really, I always knew she was the agent I most wanted) was when I opened my copy of Poets & Writers and found my agent Emma Sweeney named Twenty-one Agents You Should Know. She's someone who reads through her slush pile and I'm a perfect example of one of her many clients found that way. Congratulations, Emma, I couldn't agree more!

My "aha" came in spelling out my "retroactive outline" (love that, thank you!), the far more detailed, character-by-character and thread-by-thread outline done as I re-re-revised looking for more action. I could not have done it earlier, but I can bring it into my process sooner next time, and am so better prepared and greased for the next effort. Marilyn (protagonist number two) thanks Russell (protagonist number one) from the bottom of her heart.

One of my Aha! moments this week was captured in my post yesterday. Another came from my editor at St Martin's, Hilary Teeman. After carefully going over my revision, she pointed out the need for a line or two about a particular character's evolution, and though her suggestion is subtle, to me it carries an important message I want to convey. My final Aha! this week came to me like a hit on the head. A major plot point knocked me off my feet, and will be the bridge I need to get from the beginning to the end of my work-in-progress. The muse has been very kind to me as I journey toward the middle of my second novel.


Larramie said...

Goodness, you must be illuminating your environments with all the light bulbs being mentally turned on.

More power to you in the coming week! ;)

Lisa said...

I've had a week full of AHAs interpersed with HAHAs :)

Have a fabulous weekend!

Carleen Brice said...

Lisa, I like that HaHas! My biggest Aha came when I realized that one of my characters who was believed dead (but wasn't) wouldn't have a grave. Obvious, I know, but it was a big point and it becomes the clue to how this character is found.

Eileen said...

I am always amazed at how sometimes small changes can make huge differences in manuscripts. Learning to look for those tiny moments has been my latest a-ha.

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