Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writerly Despair

I am going through it big time.

Here's the sitch: I exchanged novels with a fellow writer. Hers was really good and I hoped that because of this, she would give me a top-notch editing job. She did- it's nice without being sugar-coated and brutal without making me cry. She pointed out all of the things I knew were there but didn't want to see and some other stuff that I didn't even know needed to be fixed. I am extraordinarily grateful for this review.

But after reading this review, I know that I have extremely daunting changes to make. Some of them are more on the mundane side- my character has an important job, and I wasn't sure of everything that went into it, so I wrote just the important details and left a lot of it out. My reader pointed out that I really do need to include this and change the stakes a little bit (or a lot, depending on how things work out.) While this will definitely be work, it's not terrible. Same with making her boyfriend there for more than romance. And then there are the really hard changes- or, in this case, the one that's so hard, it actually makes me want to cry. That's how much I don't want to do it.

See, in the story, Lyddie's mother has been absent from her life for eleven years. Lyddie was told that her mother ran off and so Lyddie has hated her for most of her life. Toward the end of the book, Lyddie discovers that her mother has actually been locked in an underground room since her mother went missing. In the original version of the novel, I had her mother be very rational- perhaps a little emotional, but very logical and calm. Someone pointed out to me that eleven years of solitary confinement would not allow a person to act like that. A person would be driven out of their mind. I ignored this- I didn't want her to be crazy. Besides the fact that I just didn't want it for her character, there was also the issue of this happening towards the end of the novel. It's already a huge reveal that Lyddie meets her mother. Now she had to be crazy, too? No. I wouldn't do it. I kept the mother rational and sent it off to my reader.

The draft came back and my reader made the same comment the other person had- the mother was way, way too level-headed for her situation. I wrote to her, basically saying, "But it's so late in the novel *whimpercrybeg*..." She answered, "That's okay. Make her insane. I want to see some crazy."

I still don't want to do this. I am pretty much having to drag myself in this direction. Because more than one person commented on it, I know I have to make her crazy, but I still reallyreallyreally don't want to. I love this character the way she is. It's so tragic to me that Lyddie will never get to know her real mother. For more technical reasons, I'm not sure how to get the mother's story out now- no one else knows it and it's going to be difficult to have her spit it out coherantly when she's crazy. And then there's the fear of me writing crazy poorly. I've never really done it- at least not this kind. In Remembrance, I did psychotic crazy, but this is different. This is splintered mind, hallucinating, unpredictable, mental breakdown crazy.

I suppose this is what they call killing your darlings. I thought I'd done it before, but it's never made me this conflicted. I'm so sad to let go of the character I initially created and replace her with a broken version of the woman, but I know I have to to make the novel realistic.

Any words of advice?

(In other news, I'm 59 pages into my Script Frenzy script!)


  1. The best bit of advice I can give you is that the crazy person does not know she is crazy. If she hears voices, or sees something, she is REALLY hearing voices and the things she's seeing is real.

    Therefore, Lyddie might not at first understand that her mother is crazy. THAT could be the reveal.

    Also, why was she locked in this room? what did she have to do? Who fed her? Was there a bathroom? Was she given clothes? A television, radio, bible? Create Lyddie's Mom's world and figure out how you'd "survive" 11 years in one single room.

    good luck!

  2. Thanks so much for your advice- I love the idea that Lyddie doesn't understand that her mother is crazy at first.

    I think I may write this part of the mother's story, just to get it down. I already wrote the part where she's told why she's being locked down there, but I do need to sort out a bit more of the situation. Thanks again! :)