Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Stronger Story

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Well, I got some comments back from readers on my current work in progress. Here’s the good news: They loved the first one hundred pages and the end. The bad news? They didn’t like the middle part. They thought it was weak.

Oddly, I actually expect that from my manuscripts because I love writing the beginnings of my stories. Usually the first one hundred pages of my books just flow right out of me and it is so satisfying to write them. It’s the next one hundred or so pages that are tougher for me. And I always end up revising those pages many, many times. It’s a weird writer’s quirk I have, I guess. Maybe I should team up with someone who is great at writing the middle of the story and I can write the beginning and end. Or take a class on how to write the great American middle. Or keep on doing what I’m doing---revise, revise, revise.

I think I read the readers’ comments about twenty times before I decided to gut the middle of my story and pretty much just start over with it. Not totally start over, but rearrange and rewrite and cut, cut, cut. It was a little painful actually, because I’d become attached to the story. Some of my writer friends say they don’t become attached to the story because they inevitably have to change it, but I almost always become attached to the story. I’ll still change it, but it always makes me feel a little sad. Don’t you think it would be fun sometimes to see a writer’s first draft of one of their published books? Just to see how far that manuscript came in the revision process. I know mine would all look very different.

So that’s what I’m doing this week. I am gutting my story middle and hoping the gamble is worth it. Since I’m changing so much I am taking a risk that my readers could come back and say, well, I liked the first version better, or they will tell me that I have a whole new set of problems and revisions to work on because of all the changes. It is a gamble, that’s for sure, but I do trust the process, that, in the end, it will be a stronger story.

Speaking of some of my stronger stories, my new book All’s Fair, will be released on July 1st. Which is on Tuesday—a mere five days away! And in addition to the release being only five short days away, I'm sure you already know, but that particular Tuesday is, of course, CANADA DAY! What a happy coincidence for me since I am Canadian and all.

I am very excited for the All’s Fair release and all the fun PR things that are planned. It’s sort of like the payoff after all the anguish of the revision process and shooting for that stronger story. You get to actually see the book. I can’t wait!

And if I don’t see you on Tuesday, I hope you all have a happy Canada Day. Perhaps you could spend it reading. Is that too broad of a hint? *wink wink*


At 6/26/2008 1:43 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

So, I guess I have to ask: will you be doing book signings? =)

I, too, enjoy writing the beginnings of stories. That's why I have 3 projects with a couple chapters each, and no finished project. =(

My wife suggested I take a book that I like in the genre, distill out the basics of what happens in each chapter, then write my own story based on that structure.

Might end up with something like:

--Meet the characters
--Introduce the conflict

Seems like cheating. =)

(Hmm, the verify word is "xnjail" - maybe that's a clue.)

At 6/26/2008 1:49 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

It's my beginnings that always end up rewritten. About a dozen times. It's become a joke to my critique group. I've got the chapter 1 curse so bad that I've reached the point of never labeling a chapter as "chapter 1" until done with the whole book--for all I know, I could back up and write something earlier or trash that chapter altogether (both have happened before).

Good luck with the revisions, the PR, and have a happy Canada Day!

At 6/26/2008 1:53 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

Just cut out the middle entirely with a paragraph that says something like "Two weeks later . . ."

At 6/26/2008 1:56 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jon, actually I *am* going to be doing book signings, but there's also this other amazing thing I'm doing that I will probably announce next week. I'm glad to find another person who "does" beginnings like I do. And the xnjail is definitely a clue. LOL

Annette, are you good at endings then? Or middles? I'm just curious if most writers are good at one part or if it's a quirk.

Thanks for the comments!

At 6/26/2008 2:24 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I want to spend Canada Day reading my favorite Canadian's great American novel! I just hope a miracle happens and I have it by then. I do believe Covenant is still sending books to Arizona by pony express -- it takes them forever to get here!

Can't wait to hear the exciting announcement!

At 6/26/2008 2:42 PM, Anonymous MoJo said...

It's not just you. Every writer I know has a sagging middle problem. I actually have a couple of sagging middles, but one of them is a doctor's bailiwick. ;)

At 6/26/2008 2:47 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

I do pretty good until the end. I never get that right on the first attempt. Almost every book, I've had to rework the end by adding chapters or bringing in another character for some additional closure.

At 6/26/2008 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay! Canada day is also my birthday - maybe someone will surprise me with a copy! tee hee...

At 6/26/2008 8:03 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

For the record, Julie will be my guest for an Author Interview on Canada Day! Take a peek at her interview at Writer in the Pines.

At 6/27/2008 12:53 AM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

Well, I won't be able to get a copy by Canada Day, but I'll think of you when we go to the Raymond Parade and fireworks while eating ketchup potato chips. Happy Canada Day!

At 6/27/2008 2:11 AM, Blogger Sue said...

I like writing the middle. To me, that's the exciting part where everyone is on canvas. The first chapter is torture for me.

At 7/02/2008 11:36 AM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

i can't do middles very well either. I have a freeze up point that hits at page 60 and finally goes away at 120. I slug my way through them :) I am VERY excited for your new book Julie!


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