Jilly: Oops! I Did It Again

Oops!Do you make the same mistakes over and over?

Last week I finally got back to my WIP after almost a month fighting the good fight of Real Life. I was hoping I’d get my head back into the story and power forward, but the reverse happened. When I read my pages I realized I’d fallen into a familiar trap – I’d invested too much time and word-count establishing a secondary character and he was hogging the limelight.

I had this problem with Sasha, the super-rich super-bitch from Dealing With McKenzie. Sasha was trouble with a capital T and I wanted to understand what made her so damaged. I gave her a family, developed her backstory and established her goals, which were strong ones. Then I got over-invested and I didn’t want her to come across as one-dimensional, so I gave her a POV and a powerful sub-plot that took up a big chunk of story real estate (see blog posts passim). Fortunately I was saved from myself by two things: contest feedback (this woman is fascinating, but she’s getting in the way of the story) and comments from an experienced editor (lose the POV, take out the Sasha scenes that don’t impact the main plot and save them till you’re ready to write her book).

I thought I’d learned my lesson, but when I settled down to read the beginning of Cam and Mary’s romance, I found myself down a rabbit-hole marked Leo. Like Sasha, Leo is larger than life and twice as colorful. I have pages of notes about his stellar career, his childhood, his bitter break-up with his lover, his desperate financial situation, and his dog. I didn’t get suckered into giving him a point of view, but it was only a matter of time.

When I took a cold, hard look at the story I realized I was also using Leo to protect Mary. She was blithely embracing change and he was giving the story the injection of oomph that should have come from her struggles and actions. Rats. Another carbon-copy of a mistake I made last time around.

At least I caught myself before I wrote the whole damn book, and I know how to fix it. I’ve put Leo in quarantine. I’m focusing on Cam and Mary and I’ve turned up the heat under both of them. Things have got much, much harder now I’ve taken out the middleman, and even though I haven’t figured out what they’re going to do about it, I feel a lot happier.

I want to keep Leo as a supporting character because he’s fun. I like him a lot and I have plans for him that go beyond the current book, but for now he’ll have to back off. I don’t usually write out of sequence, but if I have to put in placeholder scenes for him, I will. I’m not letting him back into my head until Cam and Mary are front and center, locked into escalating combat from which there can only be one winner.

I’d say it’s lesson learned, but I expect it’s only a matter of time until I do it again.

How about you? Do the same things trip you up repeatedly, or is it just me?

8 thoughts on “Jilly: Oops! I Did It Again

  1. Oooh, do you think Leo is just the guy who could make Sasha into a real girl instead of the Ice Queen?

    (-: I don’t know if those diversions are really timewasters. They keep your Girls in the Basement happy, and they keep you off the streets (-:. And if they result in books that come later . . . that’s a good thing.

    The thing I regret the most is fighting my Girls on their ideas. I finally got to a good place on my WIP, but it took months of subconscious work after I changed my main character from established city girl to newcomer on the move. I’m really not sure, though, that I could have sped up the process by poking at it. The idea that moved the story forward came all of a sudden after a nap.

    (-: So, maybe my goal for the rest of the year is to take more naps!

    • Nope, Leo doesn’t play for Sasha’s team. They do know each other though and they get on pretty well – as well as Sasha gets on with anyone. He’s the guy who designs all her slinky, hand-tailored black-and-fuschia outfits, and she’s not at all happy that his domestic and professional bust-up means she’s deprived of her personal couturier ;-).

      There is a man who could make Sasha a real girl. He’s right under her nose, and she’s totally oblivious. There’s a great guy for Leo, too, lucky him. I already have the bones of their stories, so maybe I could write them a novella each. That would be fun!

      I think you’re right about the diversions not being time wasters. Leo belongs in the Gilded Lily world and I’m going to use everything I know about him, just maybe not in this story. I’m glad I headed him off at the pass before he blew up my book 🙂 .

      • (-: That could be really cool — a series of novellas, building up your “brand” (and also entertaining yourself along the way). Somewhen, we were talking about the viability of shorter novellas. Isn’t there some Lunchtime Series of novellas that are meant to be read in 20 or 30 minutes?

        I really like the idea of novellas . . . .

        • Yes, I remember something about a lunchtime reads super-short novella website. I think Krissie was part of it so maybe I read about it on Jenny’s blog. I just googled it though and couldn’t find anything.

          I think novellas are great. They’ve become a really cool way to keep the momentum going between full-length titles or to explore side characters and relationships. Quite a few of my favorite authors write them. I think Ilona Andrews does a particularly good job, but then I’d read a cereal box if she (they) wrote it 😉 .

  2. Making the same mistakes over and over–not that I can think of. Unfortunately, I seem to have an endless supply of new ones to make! My biggest problem, and the one I wrestle with over and over, is starting a book without knowing who the characters are. The only way I’ve ever found to discover them, though, is by writing a draft and then going back and cutting out the stuff that hares off in the wrong direction.

    • Making new mistakes – sounds like progress to me!

      As far as I can tell, there is no way to know who your characters are until you write them. Just like real life. You have general impressions of people, but you don’t get to know them deeply until you spend time with them, and then you gradually find out that there’s more to them (good and bad) than was superficially apparent. I love that feeling of finally knowing who a character is, deep down. I have a way to go before I get there with Cam and Mary.

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