Thursday, May 17, 2018

When Pieces Don't Fit by Betsy Ashton

Back when I was beginning as a writer, I piled up tomes in cyber dust. I have probably six complete novels that have yet to see the light of day. Rightfully, in the format they were in when they went into "storage." Perhaps I'll find something in the stories that is worthy of updating and turning into a novel. Perhaps not, but it was all part of my tuition of learning my craft.

When I finally settled on one story, I knew, just knew, how it would go. I wanted to write about the dissolution of a marriage where both the husband and wife tell the story in first person. I picked a voice for the man:  crisp, short sentences or fragments thereof, limited showing of emotion until the turning point. I loved that brisk male voice.

For the wife, I wanted her to descend into drugs and madness. Long winding sentences tumbling back on each other. Wallowing in grief. Writing from the POV of a mad woman was a challenge and oh so liberating, because I could engage in purple prose under the guise of drugs.

The voices were distinct. No one had difficulty reading the beta copy and determining who was speaking. Trouble was, these were the wrong voices to tell the story. One of my beta readers pointed out that the story would be stronger with a single narrator. Problem was, I couldn't see either Mr. Brisk or Mrs. Rambling Rose carrying the story line.

Another beta reader suggested I sleep on it. I did. And about three in the morning, I sat bolt upright in bed with a voice yelling at me: "It's my story, dammit. Tell it my way." Well, yes ma'am.

That was the voice of a minor character. The mother of the wife, the mother-in-law. Really? This character? No way. But the more I thought about the change, the more I thought, way. Maybe she could carry the narration. I still wanted first person, because I wanted the narrower focus, the ability to delve deeply into emotions.

I played with a couple of chapters. The pieces fit. The story flowed. 90,000 words had to be rewritten in a completely different form. Writing became fun. Watching the new main character shape herself was thrilling. The more I got out of her way, the faster and better the narrative developed.

And thus, Mad Max was born. She was never meant to be a major character. The book was going to be a stand-alone until I changed the POV. Then, I could see a series. Three books later, she's as comfortable as a pair of bunny slippers and an old bathrobe. And yet, I never know what she's going to do next. She could do anything.

I'm broadening her reach. My publisher has a May Mystery Month sale on for ebooks. $.99 each for the three Mad Max books. Join me. Tell me if you like her. Tell me if you don't. What do you have to lose?

Unintended Consequences:
Uncharted Territory:
Unsafe Haven:


Leah St. James said...

That's a really cool story behind the story, Betsy! Don't you love getting those 3 a.m. wake-up calls? :-) I've been wanting to read this series for quite a while and am going to take advantage of the fantastic sale. Thanks for the tip!

Margo Hoornstra said...

What Leah said. Such a really cool story behind the story. I, too, have about six novels written years ago, still under the bed. So far, only the main characters and parts of one have made it to the light of day. You're proof positive it's always, always better to give our characters their heads when they demand it. I'm taking advantage of the upcoming sale too.

Betsy Ashton said...

Leah, Max is a really cool dame. Her term, not mine. I hope you enjoy the series. What's not to like with each on sale through the end of May at $0.99 each.

Margo, The only way I can write is to listen to my characters. When I try to force them, I can feel physically abused. Even when I'm writing a terribly painful scene, if I let the character show the story, I'm less likely to feel ill.

Thanks, Roses, for your continuing support.

Jannine Gallant said...

That sounds like one heck of a major rewrite! Kudos to you for tackling it. I did a massive rewrite on a An Uncertain Destiny (the first book I ever wrote 30 years ago) to bring it up to publishable standards. I swear to God it took longer than starting from scratch. Thanks for sharing your book journey with us.

Betsy Ashton said...

Jannine, I'm looking at a story I wrote 15 years ago. It might have legs if I get rid of the technology. It's soooo out of date. Lesson learned. Don't base a book on technology.

Diane Burton said...

Speaking as one who rewrote/revised two old stories, a huge congratulations on completing that project. For me, it takes longer to rewrite than to start from scratch. I love hearing the story behind the story. What a great 3 am wake-up call. Besides the 2 stories I rewrote, I have maybe 8-10 other stories that probably will stay in storage. I might even have them on a floppy disk somewhere. Hmmm.

Betsy Ashton said...

OMG! A floppy disk??? Do you have a floppy disk reader, Diane? I have a lot of stuff on CDs and recently moved it all to DropBox. After all, what may be true crap has to be preserved forever, doesn't it???

Andrea Downing said...

I'm another one with a 600 pg book on floppy disc--where it will stay. Probably have hard copies somewhere. But I'm glad you sorted your POV Betsy--though I have to say, there may be another book in there that IS told by both husband and wife. :-) . Just saying . . . .

Rolynn Anderson said...

Sooo interesting, Betsy. You definitely have strong-minded characters to deal with. What a bargain at $.99! Thanks. I'm off to shop'!

RE Mullins said...

When a character becomes as comfortable as a robe and slippers it means you really do know them inside and out. Love it.