Red Pen on manuscript

Wanted: A Happily Ever After

Conflict between what a character wants (external goal) and what he/she needs (internal drives) provides the raw materials a writer can use to build a NY Times Bestseller. If so, my journey from writing a rough draft to completing my manuscript should result in a gripping tale.

What I want (external goal) is to finish and publish my manuscript. Sigh, my happily-ever-after.

What I need (internal subconscious drive) is . . . I’m not quite sure. Hello-it’s subconscious and I haven’t done the necessary therapy. My internal obstacle might be safety, avoidance of humiliation, or laziness, but at this point conflict exists. The goal remains unfulfilled and need (whatever that may be) seems to be winning.

My struggling-yet-secretly-brilliant-writer premise is not a guaranteed bestseller, at least not yet. Thanks to a tip in a recent class (see my previous post here), I decided to read The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, by Shawn Coyne.  He points out that my continual whining might not hold a reader’s interest. A reader wants characters who face progressive complications and ever-increasing stakes. Moaning about my manuscript isn’t a complication-it’s a complaint. (Please consider this my apology.) A repetitive complaint may escalate into annoyance, but it doesn’t really amp up the consequences for failure. Maybe I should work while suspended by a frayed rope over a pit of pythons, write or die!

When I read, I don’t over-analyze my reaction. If I don’t like a story, I stop reading. If I enjoy it, I’ll look for the author’s next book. As a fan of romance/women’s fiction, I read my own manuscript. I found it to be okay, but not spellbinding or breathtaking. Despite a clever phrase here and there, it felt a little blah, boring, even predictable. My problem is that I’m not sure how to fix it. What’s missing? Do I need to make better word choices, punch up the quirkiness of the characters, add pythons? What I do know is it needs improvement before it can be published.

I’m currently struggling to make decisions about the best sequence of events. I’ve found that order and structure are more difficult to achieve than they appear. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I took the Evernote class. I felt like I was going in circles. I couldn’t keep track of the story flow. Pages of outlines, notes, and character sketches were becoming impossible to manage. I couldn’t make decisions. Progress stalled, but my goal still taunted me. A crisis question loomed. Would I achieve my dream or walk away?

Shawn Coyne’s book is a lifeline for any writer in a struggle with his/her inner editor. He explains his system for evaluating a manuscript through an analysis of The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. He shares so much information, that I couldn’t possibly cover it all here. I recommend that you read the book yourself. What I can share is that it he’s given me a fresh approach to my editing issues and inspired me to give my manuscript another chance. Wish me luck!

What inspires you to keep trying? Share in the comments.

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