Season 2, Episode 23: A Bunch of Unfinished Thoughts

Shoutout to MomWrites listener and fellow-bookstore-talk-giver Monica Gokey! Monica is a producer and reporter on the OutLANDish podcast, but she's also a fantastic writer and was recently published in the Jen Mann's You Do You. Mel and Monica did a bookstore talk together in January - Monica did a fantastic job...and Mel didn't even die from her fear of both the public and public speaking. Do things that scare you, guys...

This week Mel reviews chapter eight, the first half of which she's deemed "a bunch of unfinished thoughts," and decides she wants another go at her character arcs - you can never know too much about your characters, what function they're serving, what their goals and motivations are in your story. A not so fun fact that we keep learning in this podcast: if you use characters as plot devices, we promise you, you will regret it. But if you've done this already, and you've got characters you haven't developed, you can still save them! Look at the scenes they're in, figure out what purpose they're serving, and trace it backward - find out THE WHY.

What's going on when you don't like your writing, but you can't quite put your finger on what's wrong? Usually, it's because something isn't on the page--and maybe you're giving, as Kemlo says, "the what without the why." Don't make your readers guess at what's going on--readers are less patient than you think, and they know a fraction of what you know about your story - in fact, and they only know what you tell them. You don't want your readers confused or guessing. You want them devouring the pages, taking in all you want them to learn about your characters and your story and racing to the next chapter.

When CPs or editors tell you to get specific about what's going on in your story, they don't mean go into detail about the descriptions of things or events, necessarily - what the mean (a lot of the time) are specifics about feelings. Specifics about the characters' internal worlds, the way they think, how they see the world. Our human brains flip through memories and theories and piece things together in real-time, so adding in those little bits of realism that suck us into the character's inner world helps us relate to what we're reading to on an intrinsic level. And sometimes it doesn't take a lot--a few sentences here, some nuance there--not every revision has you demolishing your pages and rebuilding from the ground up.

That’s the really satisfying part of revision for me—looking at something that’s kind of ‘meh,’ and tweaking it just a little bit until it’s ‘whoa!’
— Melanie Parish


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