Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010: Day 85 -- Will the Guilty Please Step Forward

By now, it should be clear to anyone following this blog that I'm not afraid to edit, cut massive amounts of work from my manuscript, and rewrite entire chapters if that's what it takes to make it right. My second novel, "The Devil Can Wait" (2008) began life as a novella. I expanded it into a novel and set it aside to write "Silenced Cry." When my publisher asked for TDCW, I thought it would be a matter of adding a few subplots and some minor edits. But when I read through it for the first time in a couple of years, I nearly gagged. I ended up cutting over 45,000 words from the MS and rewrote it in 83 days—spent the next seven months editing that version—it went to print two months later. Last May it won the 2009 bronze IPPY. Trust me, cutting out a scene or a chapter is nothing new to this writer.

When I outlined "Shroud of Lies" in June and began to develop the scenes and characters, I was pretty sure of the direction it was going to go. Since then, I've edited it several times. Each round added greater depth to the plot and the characters. Still, the plot and the ending seemed too predictable and I didn't like it.
I always start with the crime and the motive so naturally, I knew who the killer was going to be, but the more I worked on the chapters, the less convinced I was that he was the right man for the job. Don’t get me wrong, there's no doubt he could pulled it off, he has the means and opportunity. The problem is motive--forcing this poor guy to commit murder is like ramming a square peg into a round hole.

So ... after writing over 67,000 words and only a few chapters of edits to go, I decided to change the killer. I know, I know, but for this book to have the impact I want it to have, the killer has to be the person closest to my protagonist. It has to be someone she trusts and believes in and yet someone so cold and calculating that he become a chameleon and is beyond suspicion.

Before I did this, I outlined the character's motives. I then went back to the very beginning, and checked each chapter to see what needed to be changed. To my surprise, the changes were small and I found subtleties in the text that work beautifully with this new twist. Since this is written in first person, the reader knows only what the protagonists knows and that POV hasn’t changed. However, because of this change, the story has suddenly blossomed and I’m loving every minute of writing.

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