Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Double-blind Deconstruction

It’s been a while since I’ve updated y’all on my novel, DOUBLE-BLIND. A month ago, I hired a freelance editor to critique my manuscript. I didn’t want a line-by line edit; I needed an exploration of the novel’s major themes: Do the characters work? Is the pacing right? Is the plot compelling enough to hold the reader’s interest? Also, I wanted to know if my writing sucked.

I just got the editor’s comments back. Most of her suggestions are about my characters -- how I can make them stronger and more layered by adding more flaws, deeper motivations, etc. She said that writers tend to protect their protagonist because they want people to like him/her. But in reality, if you add more flaws, people identify with the character even more. Take the book I’m reading now, The Gargoyle: the protagonist has a laundry list of serious flaws, but you root for him just the same. And sometimes we want to read about a flawed character because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We can say, at least I’m not THAT guy.

The best part is the editor said my writing is “just excellent” and that my book could be, with the right tweaks, publishable quality. This is extremely encouraging, because bad writing is hard (if not impossible) to fix. If the writing’s not there, no amount of serpentine plot twists can save you (unless your name happens to be Dan Brown).

The problem with big-ticket issues is, of course, they’re not easy to fix. They involve major character overhauls, or removing characters altogether. They involve exploring characters’ motivation, raising the stakes. They involve substantial re-writing. I have a lot of work to do.


  1. I told you so! I said your writing was great and your book was totally publishable! Great job!

  2. Did you ever think about structuring a mini-bio of all your major characters? And in this bio, include a few things I learned at the blog "The Literary Lab", What does your character want to happen? Why? What are they doing to get it? How do they feel if it does/doesn't happen? It forces you to take a long hard look at each of your beloved characters and flesh out their motivations and sometimes you can find flaws in those motivations and exploit them. Think you'll give it a try?

  3. Before I started my first draft, I did try the mini-bios, asking questions like what's the character's biggest desire, greatest fear, what's his guilty pleasure, etc. It was helpful but hard do do "cold," before I started writing. I think it may be useful to do it again now that I know my characters better.

  4. Wonderful news Brian - so exciting!