Okay, here’s where we learn how to flesh out a book. Once I know how a story ends, I can work toward that end while I’m editing. Unlike a lot of other writers, I love the process of editing, polishing a manuscript until it shines. I love it so much I spend a lot of time editing books for other people. It keeps my skills fresh, and believe it or not, lets me see more clearly what is working in my own manuscripts and what isn’t—and why.
But when I’m writing a book, this is where I begin to write in layers. Like I said, first I write the dialogue, straight through, until the book is done. Then I go back and decide who has the most at stake in each scene, and write the scene from that character’s point of view. Sometimes I think I know who has the most at stake, and sometimes my characters surprise me. Maybe a secret needs to be revealed, or needs to be kept hidden. Maybe a clue needs to be discovered that is going to make life really uncomfortable for one or both characters. Maybe a plot point needs to be developed, a twist or turn in the story fleshed out.
Sometimes, if it just isn’t working, I write the scene from a different character’s point of view. I already know what came before and what’s going to happen next, so I have to figure out what’s the best way to put it all together seamlessly. Changing point of view, changing the perspective of the scene from one character to another, can sometimes fix the problem. Or it can muddle things hopelessly. Then maybe the scene needs to be thrown out all together and written in a new venue. This is where the hard work begins. This is where that first flush of creativity wanes, that feeling of sailing along, writing a story that comes straight from your heart. Instead you may feel bogged down and wonder whatever possessed you to think you could write a book
This is where a lot of stories fall by the wayside. Because a newer, shinier, better idea comes along, and you want to go with that one, to feel that euphoria that comes with writing whatever comes to mind. This is where, if you’re really serious about getting your story published, you have to buckle down, have confidence in yourself, and keep going. It might entail a lot of staring into space, or letting your mind wander while you go for a walk or do dishes or fold laundry, but this is where the heart and soul of your story starts to come to life, and your characters become real to you. They’re facing real obstacles and having real problems and you’re the one who has to figure out how they solve them.
It’s like putting a big jigsaw puzzle together, or designing a house. Everything has to fit in with everything else, or the whole thing crumbles. I had this happen recently, in the middle of my revisions for Justice is a Lady, a romantic suspense I had planned to submit to publishers next. It’s an older story, one I wrote many years ago, and deals with street gangs and a car theft ring. Our hero and heroine go undercover to find out who killed her husband and who is behind the car theft ring. They infiltrate the gang, and could get killed if they’re found out.
That won’t work in this day and age. The gang culture now is worlds apart from what it was when I first wrote the story. Gang members will kill you now just to laugh at the blood on the pavement. And most gang activity deals with drugs nowadays. I realized my story would have to be shelved until I could figure out a way to realistically keep my characters safe. I’m not sure it’s going to happen.
So at this point you find out whether your story will work or not. If it doesn’t, you start all over again. If it does, you move onto the next step—revisions.