Characters, Craft, Editing, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Reader, Writing

Writing out the darkness

I’m still reading my completed novel with red pen in hand. This is the last time—until an agent or editor asks for changes. And yes, I said that before, but this time I mean it. It’s past time to move on to the next novel.

I’ve been plotting the new one in my head for months now. I know my main character well because she was a minor character in the last novel. She was a middle-aged woman in that one, but this story will start with her at age twelve. I “see” the other characters, and have written brief sketches of them for my file. I know how the story begins and ends. I’ve drafted several key scenes. One, I wrote yesterday.

It was not an easy scene to write, and I doubt my critique partners will thank me for it, but it’s crucial to the story. In fact, there are a few very dark scenes in the beginning of this book. That’s something I’m concerned about balancing out because of a recent reading experience.

I appreciate the author’s talent, but the story is so depressing I fear there’s little chance of a happy—or even hopeful—ending. I’m not sure I’ll finish reading the book. Not that I require my reads to have happily-ever-after endings, though I admit I’m partial to endings with at least a glimmer of hope things will work out well. I think the problem with that novel is more that I don’t care much for the main character, so I’m not as willing to walk through the darkness with her.

With that in mind, my goal is to make my main character sympathetic and weave a little light through the darkness, so I don’t discover I’ve written a book readers would despair of finishing. Let’s see if I can pull it off.

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

31 thoughts on “Writing out the darkness”

  1. The contrast of darkness with light is compelling. Maybe writing in the light after having created the darkness will make it more gripping!

    I am making changes to my MS because I think I need to do so. I’ve read warnings about writers obsessively revising their work in its final stage. How would a writer know that she is being obsessive? All I know to do is wait for my MS to cool and head into the pages again. If I ever get to the point where all truly IS right and the best it can be, I hope I will know.


    1. Ah yes, Carol, I fear I’m in danger of becoming one of those obsessive revisers. I think if I read it 100 times, I’d still want to edit. My friend Kasie reminds me to stop when your edits only make changes, not improvements. And after this round, I think I’d just be making changes, so I’m letting it go.


  2. I’ve read books like you mentioned and of course you can pull it off. A tiny light will do. Even a single candle flame lights up the darkness. And makes everything all the more interesting.


  3. Wow, Linda — It really sounds like you have your act together to move forward with your next novel. That’s exciting.

    I’m with you on the need to balance the light and the darkness and have some hope without rainbows and pink unicorns bouncing all over the place. You strike a good balance in your blog and so I have confidence you’ll pull it off in your novel as well.

    Interesting that you’re using a character from your first novel in this WIP. Is it going to be a pre-quel?


    1. Awww, but I love rainbows and pink unicorns! 😀

      I had toyed with the idea of splitting Brevity in half and if I had done that the first half would have been a prequel to the second half. That was a DUH statement, wasn’t it? What I meant to say was the story in the first book would have started fifteen years earlier than it does now. Of course, I didn’t do that.

      The character I pulled from Brevity for the new novel is a minor character that intrigued me. I wanted to tell her backstory. But I could just as well change her name and not connect her to the first novel. We’ll see.

      [I blame low blood sugar on the rambling in this comment.]


  4. I get the need for balance too, but this made me think of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I dreaded reading it, and then couldn’t put it down. I like the dark, it interests me more the light.

    I also know that you know the best strategy is to follow your gut.


    1. Since I started out writing horror, I obviously gravitate to the dark too. I find it infinitely fascinating to explore the darkness. But I know a person who depresses me just by her presence and I don’t want to be the literary equivalent.

      I didn’t read The Road because I saw the movie first. Unfortunately, I was not in a good frame of mind for such bleakness, and did not react well.


      1. funny – i was just talking about this book this morning! wasn;t the darkness for me, i just didn’t connect and kept trying, but finally gave up. been trying decide if I want to do the film. it’s dark, linda?


          1. Linda, I didn’t see the movie, so I can’t tell you. I resisted the book for a long time because it scared me. But once I started I was so captured by the writing (at once poetic and stark) that I couldn’t put it down.


Do you have a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.