What I'm reading: Locked In, by Marcia Muller
Long, long ago, when I was a wee lass, my mother was teaching me all the ins and outs of what the school system called "Home Economics". I learned to knit (potholders), to cook (crushing Graham crackers for Mom's cheesecake crust) to make beds with hospital corners. I learned to iron starting with my dad's handkerchiefs (because then all men carried white handkerchiefs) and pillowcases. Mom and Dad's generation had lived through the Depression, and frugality was a way of life.
So even though Mom had a 'darning egg', I was surprised when she told me that if a sock got a hole in the heel, to throw it away "because you'll never get it mended smooth, and it'll raise blisters on whoever wears it."
As I mentioned Saturday, I've been working on revising a plot thread my crit partners had some trouble with.
The major question was whether there was a justifiable reason for a burgeoning relationship between the cop protagonist (Gordon), and Angie, who works in the town's #1 café. From the start of the book, it's been clear to everyone in town (except Gordon), that he has a 'thing' for her. The paramedics are betting on whether he asks her out before Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. So having them finally hook up in the book doesn't bother me at all. And since it's not a romance, there's no need for Angie to be a POV character.
However, the scene where they finally consummated the relationship (or, as one of my commenters said, "do the naughty") didn't seem to serve any purpose beyond the relationship angle. Having one reason for a scene isn't really enough justification for having it on the page.
So, my challenge. Cut the whole thing, or give it another reason to be there. Since I like the relationship angle, and I like the way Gordon needs Angie to make the first move before he recognizes that he has feelings for her. They're in her apartment, and she's just initiated their first kiss.
[Gordon] "You don't think this is too…fast? It's not even our first date."
She burst out laughing. "Chief, we've had breakfast, lunch, or dinner together at least four times a week for the past year. I think we're past the first date stage."
(And, unlike my romances, there's not really anything beyond some foreplay on the page.)
Decision made. Give the scene another reason to be there. Gordon will find a clue, although he won't know it's a clue at the time. On the plane to Colorado, I mulled over what the clue should be. I decided that it should be something tangible.
Next challenge: working the new information into the existing scene, while making sure that the timing remained intact. For the scenes with Gordon, it would be crucial to make sure no new clues were revealed too soon. If Gordon sees something that's obviously related to the case and doesn't act on it, then he falls into the 'too stupid' category. If it's obvious to the reader that it's a clue, but Gordon doesn't see it as such, then his credibility as a competent cop is threatened.
And if that's not enough, the changes have to be worked in seamlessly. My added caution: I'm already at the top end of my word count, so I don't want to get too carried away with adding things.
How to do it? The most 'obvious' solution is to add bits and pieces. However, that is probably the most dangerous method. If you've done a good job with the first draft, then every line should lead directly to the next. Prying sentences or paragraphs apart to insert new lines just won't work.
The goal is to work everything in so the mending is visible only to the author, much like the safety pin in the 'after' picture.
Rewriting the entire scene from scratch is another possibility. But if much of the scene is all right the way it was, this seems too time consuming and cumbersome. And, let's be honest. Once the words are on the page, you want to keep them there. You slaved to create the most brilliant dialogue, the cleverest narrative. But you have to be willing to let go. Trying to work in new bits so they have the same flow isn't likely to work. The reader is likely to notice a choppiness to the writing, even if you've managed to insert all your plot points. Like those blisters from wearing socks with mended heels.
And, for the "do they do the naughty?" question: Yes, they still do, and in the rewrite – they do it again.
Tomorrow, my guest is multi-published author Betina Krahn. In the spirit of the holiday, she's giving away copies of her newest release to THREE lucky commenters, so be sure to come back. And invite your friends.