Don’t you hate it when you know something’s wrong with your manuscript–maybe it’s even been pointed out to you by multiple sources–but you can’t figure out how to fix it? Or, even worse, when you think you’ve fixed it and then you receive comments from agents after you start querying that reveal the issue was still lingering in the manuscript?
I’m not talking about a subjective issue but an actual flaw within the manuscript, a character or plot issue that just continues to plague you. Sometimes it’s because you tried to write it a certain way and you’re still unraveling the threads dangling from that original plot bunny (that happened to me with my last manuscript). Or maybe you can’t get a handle on a character’s motivations. (If it’s a secondary character, I sometimes write the scene from their POV to figure that out.)
Other times, you just keep revising and spinning your wheels and getting the same comments with each new draft. It’s a vicious cycle of wondering, “How the heck do I fix this??” That’s where I was with my current manuscript, so when I sent it to my last round of readers, I also included a few specific questions to determine if I’d finally solved the issues. The verdict: sort of.
But as I read through their comments, something magical happened–this moment where two of the comments suddenly jumped out at me like they’d been highlighted neon pink and the solutions became clear. I’m going to try to make these generic enough to make sense even though you haven’t read my manuscript on the off chance they might be helpful to one of you.
Magical comment No. 1:
“Even though Character A tells Character B [he/she] wants to do X, I’m not convinced Character A would have actually done it without Character B. Character B actually makes the decision/calls the shots.”
The question I asked was about Character B, but the comment about Character A put everything into perspective for me because the reader was right. I hadn’t moved Character A’s arc forward enough at that point in the story, but if I fixed that, it would help Character B’s arc as well. My earlier CPs and readers had certainly commented on both of these issues (the two characters’ motivations and arcs), but it wasn’t until the feedback was phrased just this way that it clicked with me. Of course, I needed those earlier comments combined with this one for it all to come together.
Magical comment No. 2:
“I wondered what happened to make Character C so cold and distant? Who hurt Character C early on to make Character C protect [himself/herself] like that?”
If you didn’t guess from the question, Character C is one of the antagonists in my WIP, and I’ve struggled with humanizing this particular character. I had attempted to provide Character C with a motivation in this latest draft, but it still wasn’t enough. This question–essentially “What’s Character C’s damage?”–was like a light bulb going off in my brain. Obviously I should have attempted that strategy of writing some scenes from Character C’s POV :). In any case, delving further into Character C’s history–which it turns out I mostly already had in a character sketch–provided an ideal solution that also filled in some minor plot holes as well.
Does that mean this manuscript is all perfect and shiny now? Well, obviously those weren’t their only comments :). Also, you know that thing where any time you revise you fix something but open yourself up to creating new issues? I know I did that after the last revision. It’s always possible I’ve done that now. That’s why you can never start querying until you get that final, “Yes, this is ready to go!” from someone whose opinion you trust and value. I expect there’s still work to do on this manuscript–maybe even on those pesky character issues I mentioned above–but at least it’s getting closer. What I know for sure is that it hasn’t been through its last round of readers yet (just who those readers are may depend on a certain contest 🙂 ). And I always appreciate my CPs and readers for knowing just the right way to ask a question or point out an issue.
How about you? What kind of magical feedback moments have you had recently?