I’m about to do something frowned upon…
Full truth— foolish and reprehensible…
I’m about to edit my entire manuscript from the Prologue to right around Chapter Eighteen, where I’m currently thrashing in a tumultuous sea of bleh.
I know, I know. I’m willingly and deliberately committing a cardinal sin of writing. Against all advice, I’m doing it anyway. (And yes, I acknowledge that this is exactly the sort of behavior that has kept this manuscript from completion for the past year. Ok, two years.)
Here’s the thing: I don’t have a thing.
Not an excuse, I have plenty of those, but a thing. I have a well-rounded cast of characters, intriguing antagonists, a sympathetic villain, and a fantastic myth to flesh it out, but I don’t have the key element that makes the story whole. Without the thing, it doesn’t matter how conflicted my hero is or how charming my neutral antagonist. The thing makes it easy for the reader to accept the world I’ve built; makes the plot points feel natural instead of contrived or too serendipitous.
What should we call this thing? There must be a word for it. Help me out, writers, you know you’ve been where I am.
The soul of the story?
The heartstring corollary?
It’s the little morsel of information delivered on an unobtrusive cloud of exposition, hidden somewhere in the backstory. When the reader reads it, the seed is absorbed, only to blossom later as they realize—gasp!—all this conflict was inevitable. What a tragic, fated tale (not entirely tragic, per se, but at the very least emotionally variable). The reader has to believe that because of some turning point in the past, the events of the story are beyond the control of the characters to a certain degree, and the decisions they make are catalysts on this predestined journey.
I’ve always known about this element and for a while, thought I had it. Then came the epiphany, and I suddenly knew what I had to do: the dreaded, shameful partial first-draft edit.
I don’t think this most recent stroke of genius is going to strangle the good things I already have in place. I honestly believe this is for the best. I also plan to weave it in gently, like using a crochet hook to pick up a dropped knitting stitch without unraveling the whole scarf. No character will suffer a massive rewrite (though there will be suffering) and no one will be killed off before their time.
If I do this right, I’ll only be improving, not starting over.
Wish me luck.