The Big Picture
Often, the death of a novel is not so much the writing or the characters as it is The Big Picture. The devil is in the details. Good characters draw the reader into the story. Plot keeps the reader involved. Dialogue can provide background and insight into both characters and overall arc of the story. However, what if the mistakes are so glaring the writer fails to notice them?
Novels, especially novels that span a large period, move back and forth in time or switch point of views often can read well but perplex the reader. Dates and events can easily become confused, muddling the story. One novel I am working on has two main characters and the events occur weeks apart but in the end, they have to meet up. I have re-written the time frame five times and they are still over a week out of sync. I could easily add more scenes or remove some but this hurts the overall story. My mind fails to grasp The Big Picture.
I know how I want events to unfold and certain things need to occur at certain times, but the story simply wants to take over and re-write itself. I may have to give in and let my characters do all the work. I’m sure I will eventually be able to synchronize events, but it certainly is no easy task.
Sometimes the flaw in The Big Picture is not so easy to spot. The overall arc of the story can dip in and out of characters and events until bits and pieces fall off, leaving a tattered ending that barely resembles your original idea. Too often, the writer assumes that it is ‘good enough’ or that the reader will ‘understand what I mean’. Don’t count on it. Readers are fickle. They don’t have your insight into your story and if forced to use their imaginations too much, may miss your point entirely.
Writing is a time consuming task. Failing to relay your theme to the reader can be a devastating blow to future sales and a waste of your time. Often, it is best to lay aside your story for a while and let your mind move on to other things. Returning at a later point can offer fresh insight and a pair of fresh, unbiased eyes to the story.
The Big Picture is the heart of your novel, what makes it breathe and come alive for the reader. It deserves more than a cursory edit after using Spellcheck. Read your story as a reader would. If you are confused, you can bet they will be. Remember, if the story is worth writing, it is worth writing well.