Monday, May 16, 2011

Why My First Novel Sucked

I just finished reading author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog entry entitled The Case for Putting a Manuscript in the Drawer, and it got me thinking. I know, that’s dangerous territory, but anyway ... His post talked about why he is glad his first book wasn’t published. As I read this brutally honest post, the title of today’s entry popped into my head.

Most people don’t know that Have You Seen Her? the first novel I published in June of 2010, was actually the fifth one I’d written. This is the order in which my manuscripts were written.

Lyrics
Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
Reasons
Between Sisters
Have You Seen Her? 
Hot Fun in the Summertime
Hollywood Swinging
I Can’t Get Next to You

I love old school R&B songs. Happy

Even though in hindsight I can now say that Lyrics sucked, it is my favorite of everything I’ve written. Why? I believe the story holds that coveted status because it was “the book of my heart.” I loved the characters, especially Michael Reisch, the hero. The problem with Lyrics, as Nathan Bransford said about his first manuscript, was that it was way too ambitious.

Now promise me you won’t laugh, but this is basically what Lyrics was about:

1. Begins as a romance that tells how Dee, the heroine, meets and falls in love with Michael, the hero. (romance?)

2. He’s white. She’s black. (interracial romance?) 

3.They have religious differences (Michael is a non-practicing Jew. Dee is a born-again Christian) (inspirational romance?) 

4. He’s wealthy, but Dee doesn’t know it until they’ve been dating for a while. In fact, nobody knows except his family and close family friends. 

5. He works in a criminal job as a mob enforcer. (He doesn’t kill people, just roughs them up. LOL!) I based his character on Taylor Reese, the part Vin Diesel played in The Knockaround Guys. (romantic suspense?) 
    6. As a result of Michael’s grandfather leaving his fortune to Michael rather than her husband, Michael and his mother have a toxic relationship. She believes no one could love Michael apart from his money. Because of his dysfunctional relationship with his mother, he was raised by his grandmother with whom he is very close. 

    7. Dee has a hard time dealing with Michael’s inherited wealth once he reveals it to her. 

    8.There’s a plot point about his former girlfriend, whom he’s known since childhood, who wants to rekindle their relationship. 

    9. Michael’s best friend, Rico, a public school gym teacher, is arrested and charged with sexually molesting one of his students (even though she’s about to turn 18 and they had been dating secretly) 

    10. Dee’s best friend, Rita is a single mother who wants to get married and give her daughter a stable family life. 

    11. Michael gets shot on the job and almost dies 

    12. Dee discovers she is pregnant and begs Michael to leave the mob, because she fears for his life. 

    13. There’s also a plot point about Michael rescuing his mob boss’s daughter from a Columbian drug lord. 

    14. Dee finally convinces Michael to leave the organization. He ends up taking a million dollars from his $8 million inheritance and opens the hottest upscale nightclub in the Hamptons named Lyrics. 

    15. Rita meets and falls in love with the architect who is designing Lyrics
      See what I mean? Talk about being overly ambitious! But I’ve never had so much fun writing a book. It came to me almost like a movie in my head. I didn’t have to work hard plotting out the story. In fact it was the only book I didn’t outline. I pantsed it from beginning to end. Can’t you tell? Hey, I can hear you laughing ...  ROTFL

      Lyrics was an exciting, fast moving story, but it could’ve been broken into two or three separate books. Too much going on.

      During the next year, while I was writing the sequel, Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, I received numerous rejections on Lyrics. Those rejections forced me to begin seriously studying the craft of writing and finding out why editors and agents had such a problem with it. The Real Thing picks up after Michael has been running Lyrics for about a year and it focuses on his and Dee’s relationship when he’s tempted into a brief affair with a famous model/actress who comes into his club. Much better story, but it wasn’t nearly as easy to write. I had to really work on that one, and I still need to tweak it in order to get it right before I publish it in the fall.

      My husband keep telling me to rewrite Lyrics since I loved it so much, only the sheer magnitude of the surgery required gives me a migraine. It’s easier to write a whole new story.

      And that’s exactly what I plan to do. I’ll keep you posted.

      10 comments:

      MJKane said...

      LOL! You've told me that story several times and it after reading the breakdown of all the subplots, it is funny! I guess the ambition was to tell it, like you said, as a movie. Focusing on the main characters would definitely be enough for the story to go over. And hey since your pubing on Amazon, you can write it the way you want the story to be told. Gotta love it. I look forward to reading it when your ready. Happy writing!

      Chicki said...

      Do you believe I crammed all of that into 400 pages?

      I probably won't get around to working on it for at least a year, because I want to get the rest of my more recent books up first.

      Jackie H. said...

      Is this your new blog? Congrats:) It takes what it takes...nothing is wasted:)

      Chicki said...

      Hey, Jackie! Yeah, I was having too many formatting issues with the Webs blog, but my web site is still there.

      You're right. Everything we write is practice. Nothing is wasted if you learn from it.

      Alice Benton said...

      This is great! I loved it!
      http://www.alicebentonsblog.blogspot.com

      PJ Jones said...

      Hey, Chicki! My first piece of garbage, written about ten years ago, was a historical romance. It sucked big time! Pages without tag-lines. Scenes that ended nowhere. A romance that blossomed after only a few pages. I loved it so much, I entered it in The Golden Heart contest. Talk about clueless! You don't need to know my GH scores. LOL! If you love this book, you should rewrite it. Mine was deleted and thrown in the round file. PJ

      Chicki said...

      PJ, you submitted yours to the Golden Heart and I sent mine out to scads of New York editors! Ugh! chalk it up to naivete. Live and learn, right?

      CJ Archer said...

      Chicki, I think you should try to rewrite it if you still love it. That's a sign of a good story with good bones.

      I see your 5 unpubbed manuscripts and raise you at least another 5. Some of them have good bones, some just suck all the way through, lol. I'm so glad self-publishing wasn't around 10 years ago or I would have rushed the process and put them out there. I might be a slow learner compared to other writers but everyone's process and time frame is different. All I know is that I'm a better writer now thanks to some brutally honest contest feedback and even more brutally honest crit partners.

      Chicki said...

      CJ, you are so right! I did have any critique partners when I first started writing, but once I found a group, they saved my life.

      Brent said...

      The original Lyrics sounds like about 3 years on Days of Our Lives.
      Starting from scratch sounds like a good idea, because you love that character.