“(Working Title) has serious problems with structure and storytelling, it isn’t yet an effective novel.” Peter Gelfan sent this to me in an email back in 2007. With that he essentially told me thanks and have a nice day.
He had mentioned something positive about voice, ideas, and dialogue, but then he wrote, “There’s no plot.”
Plot? Wait–I had things happen, fun things, awful things, surprising things, and humorous things. Wasn’t that good enough?
Peter first got into my head when I used Google to find Renni Browne’s editorial company. Because I’d practically kept her book under my pillow, I wanted to know if she had anything more to add to my education. Wow! Did she ever. She’s the president of The Editorial Department and Peter is one of her many talented editors. Actually, Peter is a genius disguised as an editor.
He said I could phone him, so I did. “But Peter,” I said, “Rennie’s book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers doesn’t tell how to develop a plot.” Of course I have many books on how to write, one even touched on plot development, but with all the exciting things going on in my story, did I really need a structure for plot?
I’m a wee bit stubborn. I told him I didn’t want to give up on this manuscript.
I wondered if he sighed, if he rolled his eyes, if he slapped his forehead, and maybe his finger was on the “hang-up” button. But he stayed with me for five years until he turned my work over to Renni last year. He first told me to cut out two of the stories within the main one, and learn how to structure my plot. This process would take a total rewrite, not just tweaking. He said we were talking months and months (it’s been years and years).
What I learned at this point:
1. A published first novel doesn’t equal a first book. It’s one book revised many times.
2.Writing a book has to be a labor of love (Peter’s words) because any other reason is crazy (my words).
3.A writer doesn’t know what they don’t know, so a good editor is imperative.
Comparing is fun, don’t you think? What are your revision experiences?
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