Our guest today is Lauren K. Denton. Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two young daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. Her first novel The Hideaway comes out next month and in 2018: Hurricane Season, also from HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson.
It’s scary to be in the middle (or worse—near the end) of your book and realize you need to make a huge change. I wrote this to commiserate with other authors who’ve done this sort of thing as well as to encourage authors who are up against this kind of major change.
Changing Horses Mid-Stream (or How to Not Panic Over a Mid-Book Structure Revision)
In my novel The Hideaway, one of the main protagonists is dead. (This is not a spoiler.) As I wrote the first draft, I questioned how to make this character, Mags, feel real and true. My first solution was to employ the use of a journal. The second main character, Sara, would find her grandmother Mags’s journal and through it, Sara (and the reader) would find out all about Mags’s life.
In my first draft, I scattered the journal entries throughout the book, alternating between Mags’s journal and Sara in present-day. But it didn’t feel plausible. I began to think that if Sara had found her grandmother’s journal telling all sorts of crazy things Sara never knew, she’d likely sit and read the whole thing cover to cover without stopping. At least that’s what I’d do. So I tried it again, this time inserting the entire journal into the book in one chunk. Now, the story went from one section—Act I, if you will—in Sara’s POV, to Act II of Mags’s story, then back to Sara for Act III.
As I sat with this structure and read it through a couple times, dread began to claw its way into my heart. The more I reflected, the more the entire journal felt like a crutch. I’d needed a way to tell Mags’s story and I’d gone with the easiest, most common path. Many novels use journals to great success, but for this story and this character, it felt like the easy way out. Her story came through a little in the journal entries, but I knew if the reader was getting a taste of Mags’s voice in the journal, it would be even stronger if Mags was her own character with her own POV, not just a voice from the past. [Read more…]