With the first act of Aether in edit, all of the familiar demons have come to visit.
Is that really where you want to start your story? Is that really what Zoey’s voice should be? Oookay. No, no it’s fine. I mean, if you are good with it, then, you know, I guess it’s okay.
It’s officially time to second-guess everything! Huzzah! So how can I kill my fears? I define them. It’s time to give this demon a name.
I’m going to name my imaginary Demon of Internal Malcontent: Todd. Partly because I don’t know a Todd in my offline life, and partly because I already blame Todd for everything. It wasn’t my husband that didn’t refill the coffee pot: it was Todd. It’s Todd who doesn’t replace the toilet paper roll, and he’s notorious for getting out craft supplies for projects he doesn’t start. Poor Todd. It’s not his fault he’s such a … malcontent.
Top o’ the manuscript
Todd’s biggest pet peeve is usually where I start the book. Unfortunately, this time, I think he might be right.
I chose a place where my Riley had stable friendships and a normal life that I would gleefully break apart, but I think there might be more story to tell here. If I skip her back a couple of years, when she first comes to this small town from the city, I think we can show those relationships being built instead of telling.
But how do I know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m not just caving into Todd’s influence? That sounds like another fear, so I need to define it like I do when I make any other decision: what do I gain out of moving the starting line? What do I lose?
Opportunity vs Cost
Well, a rewrite always takes time. Not just time to write, but time in the story. I wanted to jump into the plot fairly early, and having established relationships felt like the shortcut to that spot. But when those relationships are tested, the conflict does feel a bit forced. Flat. In the time category, it’s feeling more like do the thing wins.
What about the Big Three? Is there enough story fodder to create Action, Humor, and Heart? There isn’t much point to writing more story if it’s all boring exposition. What about the shift interests me?
Well, if I go back then I can see Riley before she’s comfortable in this new life she’s running away to. She’s still squishy and vulnerable, and that’s a huge basin of Heart I can draw from. The winner? Do the thing.
I want to be careful though – my first reaction to Humor is to explore how a city girl adapts to country life, and that’s been done. If I can’t say anything unique here, then this category is a don’t do the thing.
What about Action? Not a lot of plot happens until Riley’s relationships are established. There can be some creepy foreshadowing, and some interpersonal conflicts, or … zZz. Sorry. I got bored just thinking about it. Score another one for don’t do the thing.
If there’s no clear winner then I need a tiebreaker. This is where my lovely husband comes into the game. He will probably fuss that I’m changing the story again, but he’ll also listen and give me an honest opinion. I can’t ask for more than that.
I built a rabbit hole only fifteen minutes deep, and decided that whatever I had at the end would be my pitch. I’m not rebuilding the whole story, and I already know my characters, so this change will either flow into the plot naturally or it won’t. If I can’t stub out something decent in fifteen minutes, it means I’m probably letting Todd bully me into a change I don’t need.
I threw the pitch, and he caught it with a bit of wary excitement. I realized that I can say what I want to inside of a chapter, that it has much more action than I anticipated, and I get a better introduction for my A-Team characters in the process. The rest of the draft can stay more or less intact as it is. The opportunity vs cost equation tallies out in the green.
So off I go, happy that I didn’t waste another week redesigning a story that probably wouldn’t have gained much from it.