For a week I’ve been flailing around with the current chapter of Sorrow’s Knot.
I keep thinking I’m about to hit the point where I can stop completely ravelling the last draft and saving only a sentence here and there. I dream about the big downhill rush, and I’m always sure it’s just after this last little slog. And maybe this time I’ll be right, who knows.
Anyhow. This week’s chapter addresses one of the big problems from the first draft: no one understood why my hero had to do the terrifying and incredibly brave thing she did at the climax. I mean, I feel like I understood it. But no one else did. And by no one I mean my incredibly smart editor.
So, task: create a chapter where the whys and wherefores of the brave/terrifying/magically logical climax are spelled out. Where the character - visibly and on-screen - figures out what she’s going to have to do. Short-term payoff: suspense. Will she really do THAT? Long-term payoff: increased reader satisfaction and decreased reader confusion. Hopefully fewer editorial post-it notes expressing bafflement. Definitely worth doing.
But what does this look like on the page? This looks like a big old chunk of talky exposition, that’s what it looks like. The scream in the sunlight horror all-is-lost incident right before this? Let’s lose all momentum by TALKING about it. A lot.
You may now picture me banging my head into my treadmill desk. Repeatedly.
Today, finally, I think I found the path through it. It’s a well-worn path - so well worn that screenwriters use it as a truism: exposition is ammunition. Let’s make the characters FIGHT about what to do next. It’s a well-worn path but I missed it, and finding it seems like a little miracle. If I can just get through this next little push, it will be a fast clean rush to the ending.