by Kelsie Engen
I’ve talked earlier this year about my two-year writing plan, where I’ve scheduled out my WIPs and made rough guidelines for publishing those WIPs. In that post, I also admitted the ridiculous number of WIPs I have in progress, all in various spots on the path to publication.
Now, I knew it was ambitious when I wrote out those dates and times and goals, but I figure, hey, if you’re not being ambitious, you’re being lazy, right?
Well, here comes the insecurity.
I’m a fast writer.
I’m a slow reviser.
I’m a fast editor.
I’m a slow reviser.
I made the plan (somewhat over-ambitiously, I now realize) to revise my women’s fiction novel, Broken Time, in 30-60 days. Whew. I thought that it would be a simple 1 main rewrite and good to go.
I grossly underestimated.
If I had a real deadline, I would have long since missed it by now. Instead, I’ve extended my deadline another two weeks. And while I’m determined to meet that deadline, I have to be prepared for unexpected reader reactions. Because that’s what has caused me to rewrite.
During my second revision, I’ve been posting my chapters on Scribophile, which is a great site for unbiased feedback of your work. (Sure, it hurts sometimes, but what feedback doesn’t sometimes hurt?) And the feedback I received on my first chapters led me into an 8-9 chapter rewrite I was not expecting. The criticisms were mainly regarding the characters themselves, whom I had already learned to love, despite their deep flaws and perhaps unusual place center stage of the story.
You see, my protagonist, Constance de Winter, is a passive female lead.
Yes, I just blew your mind, didn’t I? Because passive characters are an absolute no-no in writing fiction.
Or are they?
Brief aside into Passive Main Characters. . .
I could get into a long debate here, but what it comes down to is this: I doubt readers are reading a book and saying to themselves, “Well this character is passive–everything is happening to her, and I don’t want to read that.” *closes book and picks up another*
After all, if readers said that, why is Katniss Everdeen so popular? Everything happened to her in The Hunger Games, and while she made some choices that affected the plot (like volunteering for her sister early on), and she is a self-sufficient, strong character, she is not particularly proactive throughout the series. Instead, she’s a character that is forced into situations and reacts in the best way she can.
Now I’m not comparing my women’s fiction novel to a young adult dystopian by any means. What I’m saying is that a passive mc can be interesting by what happens to her and what she does with it. My novel is a bit slower, it doesn’t feature brutal games where children kill each other. But it does feature a woman trapped in her life who knows something needs to change, but is afraid to change it because she’s too afraid of losing what’s left of her deceased husband. Yet, through things that happen to her, she is forced to react and change her manner of thinking and acting.
Suddenly a passive mc may not be so passive after all, hmm? Sounds like real life, really. Someone afraid to change because the last time change happened it hurt. And she’s been hurt too much to willingly be hurt again.
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On My Writing Speed
What my aside into passive female mcs has elaborated on is why my passive female mc has complicated my revision life for me. Readers are either put off by a character that is “frozen” and afraid to act, or else sympathetic, but with limited patience for her to incite change.
And that led me into an 8-chapter rewrite which is still not complete. Coupled with a few first chapter blunders and characterization troubles, it’s gone a lot slower than I hoped it would.
And as an indie author, that’s troubling, isn’t it? For we are told that indie authors must write fast, publish fast, and try to publish perhaps 4 novels a year.
I just spent 3 months revising the same novel–for which I already had a first draft. *shocked gasp of indie authors everywhere*
I suppose the thing is that I work through plot lines as I write a draft. This may require 3-4 drafts on plot issues before I’m ready to iron out the syntax and move on to copyediting, then publish. And that’s if I’ve outlined and thought things worked out really well.
That’s not a good thing for the speed-driven indie-author world. And so I realize that, while I’m still learning to increase my speed, I probably will never be one of those authors that is comfortable pumping out 4 books a year.
What it comes down to is this: I’m more concerned about the quality of my books than the speed of my books. And so I’ll slowly build up my backlist and release new books, because that’s how I work best as an author.
This constant comparison to other writers and doing what “we’re told to do” has to stop. While writing and publishing tips can be helpful, we have to filter them through how we work as authors. What works for one author will not always work for another.
Be flexible, be willing to try new ways and improve upon your writing method, but don’t sell yourself out simply to make a quota.