Friday, February 20, 2009

The plot?

For a long while I have been struggling with a certain work in progress. The more I rehashed and revised it, the more it stubbornly refused to pull together. My critique partners labored away, trying to help. Beta readers scratched their heads and offered suggestions. One friend bluntly told me to put it in a drawer. I was beginning to hate that book.

Finally, I invested in a professional assessment.

It was meticulous and thorough. And quite candid and frank. After nearly fifty thousand words I didn't have a book. I had a journal. Actually, to be perfectly blunt I had a repetitious journal of survival with some hot sex, an inordinate amount of shifty boxes, and a few too many coincidences that strained the willingness to suspend belief. Alas.

The thing that I did NOT have was a plot or action. Nope. Not even a little plot and the first actual action took place in Chapter Twelve.

I read every single note, every single mark on the page. Fortunately my evaluator had a sense of humor. In my story I had a plane full of boxes. Never.... never did I realize how much of the story was involved with moving those &)^%&* boxes! It's one thing to have someone tell you that the story is plodding. It's another when every single mention of boxes is marked in the margin with accompanying moans and whimpers. (And that's several times on one page.)

My heroine was snarky, slept all the time, and when she wasn't sleeping as my evaluator pointed out--she was peeing. Which led my evaluator to speculate about weak kidneys. Or she was too lazy to help move those pesky boxes. In between sleeping and snarkiness, she was jumping my guy's bones even though the bad guys were pursuing them with gusto.

Then there were the extraneous characters that wandered through the story at will--never ever quite finding their place. Some were unnecessary, others were simply never allowed to develop. It was sad.

There were a couple of good points. The sex scenes were good. This was reassuring to know. And a couple of descriptions were nice. She liked several of the characters even though they seemed to walk on, do their part almost like a narrator, and then scoot stage right before they accidentally became entangled in the story. No action!

Heh. So what did I learn for my money? Don't beat a dead horse. The premise for the story had merit. And the research was not wasted. Even the time spent writing wasn't lost because I learned a lot about how NOT to craft a book. After one long last sigh, I set that book aside without any bad feelings at all. If I ever need a laugh, I'll haul it out and have another look at the shifty boxes.

In the meantime, I began anew. I have a little over two thousand words so far... and only two boxes that I swear haven't moved even once. And my heroine, though tired, is wide awake!



  1. Sometimes the best thing to do is not to abandon the story but set it aside and let it percolate in the back of your mind before you go back to it.

  2. LOL! My CP had a book that I read once and I did the same thing: noted in the margin, "She's crying again!" or "Why is she reaching for the tissue again?" Finally I wrote, "She needs to grow a spine already, she's supposed to be a tough cop!"

    We ended up calling the book "Cry Baby Cop" (between ourselves). Yes, she revised it but it never went anywhere. We still laugh about it, though.

  3. Here's hoping the new version will behave!

  4. Ahhh. Those damn pesky boxes. Thanks for the BEST laugh. Beating a dead horse is overkill, honey. For what it's worth, I think we've all done this. Had a story that just wasn't working and we've had to set it aside or scrap it altogether. I have several of those in a drawer right now as a matter of fact.

  5. I hate it when you discover that the story's going nowhere. But, it really sounds like you got an amazingly thorough evaluation - it really sounds like you got your money's worth!

    Here's hoping the new draft flows quickly and perfectly!! :)

  6. You're not alone! I have a story like that and it's still gathering dust. The only thing I got from it was research! :)

  7. I have more than one of those myself. Thanks, Anny.

  8. Anny, so far, save for the first book I ever wrote (which will never see the light of day) I've been able to save all my works. Of course I haven't been at it that long. When this happens to me--the meandering story with no plot--I'll think of you and remember you survived. I will too.

  9. It's always good to be able to laugh at yourself! Your post is hilarious. I wish I could read the original story.

  10. I have one of those that is sitting, all but finished and I just can't figure out how to end it. I know it's supposed to have a happy ending, but I can't quite figure out how to get them to it. The characters are ones I really like, but can't figure out how to redeem my stupid hero from his stubborn, arrogant mistake to win back the heroine.

  11. Anny, I laughed until I cried. Haven't we all been there. I have a coujple I keep kicking back under the bed and screaming at it, "Leave me alone!!!!" Thanks for a great blog.

  12. This book sound interesting to me. More real life is my kind of story.