I did it! I completed all 50,000 seconds of my pledge to edit my novel during November. I wasn’t sure I would succeed earlier this week, as I fell behind and lost inspiration. But I rallied the troops and did another sweep of things that were missing and found one more key element that needed work.
I realised that my novel was suffering from the not-too-uncommon plight of a ‘saggy middle’. The type of disease whereupon a novel starts off strong but then inevitably leads the reader down a merry garden path with numerous insignificant scenes and details only to come out the other side with a strong, but somewhat baffling, climax.
What I had discovered about my own novel was that Parts Two and Three involved some key events but that these occurred through no fault of my protagonist. In essence, they would have happened even if he wasn’t in the book. This, of course, is fatal for any writer – to find out that your lead character is superfluous (think Big Bang Theory’s acute observation about Indiana Jones) is supremely disappointing.
I had also identified a sub-plot that petered out before the end of the novel; a threat of conflict that never quite materialised for my protagonist but could very well jeopordise his career alongside the marriage that was crumbling before him and the potential loss of his unborn child. All of these things were/are the worst possible things that could happen to him – and I was letting him off lightly by not risking it all.
So I scoured my sources for a spot of advice about tackling the issues of a saggy middle section. Luckily, Ellen Brock’s Novel Boot Camp from earlier this year came to the rescue. She has a whole ‘lecture’ on saggy middles with some wise words and useful suggestions on how to go about tackling this developmental problem. After reading this I did some serious thinking and then I sat down to plan out my sub-plot and ensure that circumstances convened to force my protagonist to make the choices that lead to the final situation he has to tackle.
And it all worked out. Miraculously, I was able to tie in the sub-plot with my opening scene, wrap it up within Part Three (after introducing it in Part Two) and have it prompt some of decisions my protagonist has to make that eventually put him in a difficult position. So much so, that I don’t really understand how any of these things could have happened without the sub-plot being in place!
While I’m only really 50% through the revision of the novel, I am confident that the changes I am making will only improve and tighten the plot and make the novel really worthy of publication. I’ve changed LOTS – but all for the better – and I have a whole host of new scenes to write alongside some serious re-juggling of sections. Now the challenge is to get through all the structural changes before Christmas so that I can focus on the rewrites in the new year.
At last I feel that I have found my feet with the process of editing and, once again, it’s NaNoWriMo that helped me do this; which makes me even more glad that I did the right thing and got my halo this year. Without NaNoWriMo I don’t think I’d be writing at all, nevermind considering publication one day.