A tough decision-Making a Big Change in your Novel

I’m here.  Crunch time.  My novel is pretty much done.  I love everything about it.  Now it is time to make those big decisions that I’ve been putting off.

When I started writing this novel, Magellan was six years old.  I really loved the idea of a really young child being ripped away from his parents.  He lived with the King for four years before going to school at ten years old.  The problem was… huge jumps in time.  The King’s Residences are just “Act One”.  Act two has Magellan in school for several years.  Act Three is him coming home, and facing ??????  the climax.

My big problem is that Magellan is sixteen in act three.  That age is solid.  It can’t change.  The final section deals with a lot of more YA/adult content than Act One.  I had a Middle Grade beginning and a Young Adult ending.  Two very distinct genres.  Not good.

I toyed with the idea of cutting HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT into two novels.  There is a climax at the end of Act One/Beginning Act Two, but I couldn’t “summarize” what was going on.  Magellan didn’t “have to do anything” yet.  (Other than dodge the overly affectionate princess,  and stay alive while the homicidal prince keeps trying to kill him)

The first change I made was to “age up” Magellan to eight.  This left me with a two-year span in Act One.  Everything else stayed the same.  It still wasn’t working, though.  There were still time jumps in Act Two that I wasn’t quite comfortable with.  I was still struggling with the age question.

My challenge was to make Magellan more “marketable” to a YA audience in the beginning.  Eight wasn’t cutting it either.  So, I hunkered down.  I made the big decision.

Magellan is now Eleven when he is taken, and I have shortened my timeline.

I had to re-write a few segments to make him a little less weepy, but it flowed fine.  He now only spends a year in the Kings residences in Act One.  A year, I found, was plenty of time for him to become best friends with the younger price, have the princess fall in love with him, and make her older brother so mad he becomes homicidal.

This also fixed Act Two.  I no-longer need to quickly age Magellan a year as soon as he goes to school.  There is no longer a need for a time jump.  The first climax that sends him “on his way” can now happen in the first year.  He is thirteen. (Just turned thirteen—that’s two years older than in the first draft at this point)  That makes it easier for him to make the big decisions that he makes.  He is mature enough.  The age progression up to sixteen, then, feels natural as everything starts happening around him.

Now that I’ve done it, I am shaking my head.  Just changing his age, and narrowing my timeline, has filled so many holes.  It’s now more fluid.  It makes more sense.  Now, I finally have that “Omigosh, did I actually write this?” feeling.

I realize that most of you have never read HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT, but I am telling you this for two reasons:

#1 – to get it all straight in my head and

#2 – to let you know NOT TO BE AFRAID of the “big decision”.

If you are struggling with a possible change, and you “feel it in your gut” you are probably right.  I knew this needed to be done last year, but I fought against it.  Now that it is done, I want to smack myself.

Think over your novel.  What is bogging it down?  What are you clinging to that just might not work in the end?  Whatever it is… Make the Big Decision.

Good luck!

Jennifer Eaton

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24 responses to “A tough decision-Making a Big Change in your Novel

  1. Pingback: Row80 Update 11-20-2011 | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. I have a Big Decision to make on my wip and needed this post. Thanks, Jennifer.

  3. Love this. I’ve closed timelines before and agree 100% it tightens the whole story. I’ve not had the age thing…yet 🙂 Wonderful post.

  4. Pingback: ROW80: But it’s Hard! | Jennette Marie Powell

  5. OMG! I run into this All. The. Time. You’d think it would get easier, since I’m a plotter. Nope. I find these holes in revision, and when I run up against this sort of decision – sometimes on a little detail! – it derails my whole train of thought, and stops me until I get it figured out. Thanks for the reminder that I just need to Make The Decision!

    • Yes, there are so many of these decisions that we have to make. They are really major for a writer, and our non-writer friends cannot even fathom what it is like to have to cut a scene. Hard stuff… but our novels are the better for it.

  6. I’m happy for you that it all “clicked” into place. It’s hard to make those decisions. I’m mid-editing process on Book 2. My editor and my teen reader didn’t like a scene in the middle. They were bored. It slowed down the pace of the book. I made the touch decision and cut 2 chapters in the middle that I loved. I’ve taken a deep breath and moved on from that trauma (haha).

    • Oh! I know! I have well over 100 pages in my cut file. I cringe when I think of how many HOURS of work are in that folder… and most of it cannot be used elsewhere and will never be read. Gut wrenching.

  7. It is good when things click into place. I wish you all the best with it.

  8. I remember needing my make huge changes to my novel months after “finishing it,” but it ended up being better because of that.

    • Hi, Derek! Yes… sometimes it takes a lot of time to make a big decision like this, but putting it off (like I did) is just a waste of time. If you know it needs to be done DO IT. You will probably be glad you did. Good for you for taking that plunge!

  9. I imagine you loved the six year old before trading him in for the eleven year old model…Well done, congratulations, Robin

    • I did. I really Really did.

      I am not sure why, but it was really important to me that he was taken from his parents at a really young age. He needed to be away from them for so long that he forgot them. I needed to work around that, but I did.

      I do miss the heartbreak that was in the original (being a mother, this made me weep) However, now that I am thinking of him/his age like my older son, rather than my youngest, I am finding it still works.

  10. wow, can I relate to how you feel!. I have made some many changes to mine, added more fantastical elements, changed personalities of those who play minuscule parts, changed POVs. I, too, have arrived at that ‘wow, did I write this?’ moment. i am so happy for you and proud you finally figured out what you need to do and I can’t wait to read the final product! Most excellent!

    • I’m still struggling with Matt’s hair (Wow, that must sound really stupid to anyone who has not read the novel) Once I get over that hump, I’ll be ready for the final Beta read.

      Looking forward to your final too, MISSY!!!!! Good luck on publication by the end of the year!

  11. You are so right. When you know it in your gut, but don’t want to deal with it, probably the time you should. It still amazes me when some makes a comment about my writing and I think, yeah, I knew that…

    • YES! Sometimes I read over something and say “Ugh, maybe no one will notice.” Then, when I get slapped by a beta, it makes me feel dumb… “I could have changed that when I first saw it.” DUH!

  12. I haven’t yet faced the dilemma of a complete change-out in age with my current WIP, Jennifer.

    But, it took a plethora (one of my fave words, btw) of rejects before my “AHA” moment. My YA query excerpt generated a request for a full. BUT! (You knew there was a “but” in this, didn’t you?) Before I could finish my happy dance, the full came back without helpful red-lines. Nada. Zip.

    I FINALLY “got it”–that I needed to study the craft and the genre. Duh! When this WIP (Contemporary Romance) is complete Michelle “Mitch” Madison and her light fantasy team will make a new debut as a rewritten middle-grade series.

    KUDOS on making those tough decisions. LOVE the concept of your book more with each of these posts. Get that dang thing published so I can read it!

  13. Oh, I remember reading the two possible openings ( both, so good). I’m so glad you figured this out — isn’t it strange how a decision that seems sooo hard actually made everything flow? So glad this all worked out.