I’m editing up a novel right now. Unfortunately I didn’t know what I was doing when I wrote it and I was disappointed with what I ended up with. It should have been great: it had magic, cool settings, cool characters, and adventure, but somehow I was left with a very flat story. After looking at it very carefully, I identified the three biggest problems:
— My main character set out on an adventure for no good reason and really had no drive.
—My secondary characters had no lives and nothing better to do than fall in with the main characters adventure plans.
—The main character met a boy and despite knowing very little about him, still got married to him at the end of the book.
Since this was my second re-write and it only looked marginally better than my first draft I decided that instead of plunging into a third re-write I would work out all the problems I saw in an outline so that my next re-write might be easier.
The first problem was the biggest and most difficult to fix. Originally my main character Elizabeth was a big blank. She had lived a boring and somewhat sad existence away from her true home world. I figured this would be enough of a motivation for her to be really excited about finding her true place in a new world, but it felt really contrived and she was a non entity on the page. I ended up scraping the idea that she was adopted and introduced her mother into the story. Her mother has now died a year before my story starts and Elizabeth spends the rest of the book figuring out what her mother hadn’t told her about their collective past. As you can imagine this was not the simplest of re-workings, but after I did it the plot flows better, it seems more reasonable for my main character to be doing the things that she is doing and I am now happier with the way things look. It also helped with my secondary characters.
As I said in the original story, my secondary characters felt like wooden dolls being moved around for my plot, but giving Elizabeth a good back story helped me see how my secondary characters could better fit into my main characters story. I ended up changing many of the characters back stories, reworking the entire plot, deleting five characters, and adding another four, but in the end everyone’s actions make sense and the plot is woven together much more seamlessly.
The romance turned out to be the simplest things to fix. The new plot line that I created involving her mother made the romance completely unnecessary. So I cut out the romance without the story suffering at all.
I have learned quite a lot from doing this. Hopefully the third re-write will be my last.