I’m closing in on finishing a trilogy I’ve been working on for some time. Book 1 is out; this is the cover. Book 2 is at the copy editor, due back at the end of April. I’m still revising Book 3 before it goes to copy edit.
My goal is to make these books as light-hearted as possible. I want them to be the literary equivalent of meringue—a whisper of sweetness on the tongue. I want them to be funny. I want every single person and animal—even the villains—to have a happy ending. I want these books to make readers feel better even if they read them on their worst days.
Book 1 went fine, but Book 2 was a killer. I had difficult personal issues going on at the time I wrote it, and when I went back to it for revisions, it did not read like meringue. It read like day-old oatmeal—heavy, dry, and lumpy. Totally unappetizing. I complained about it on this forum, but I will save you a dreary whine by not posting the link.
What to do? Jilly, one of our Eight Ladies, offered to read it to see if she could see any ways to lighten it. And did she ever! One big one: don’t give Dave a heart attack. He’s an important but secondary character who helps my heroine focus on what’s important in her professional life. We liked Dave. We felt bad when he went to the hospital. I needed Dave to exit the book, but I didn’t need him to exit a vibrant second career.
Jilly’s suggestion seems obvious in retrospect, right? If you want your books to be cheery and light-hearted, nobody should suffer a life-changing medical condition.
Okay! Book 2 revised, it goes off to copy edit. Onward to revising Book 3! In the home stretch now! Because Book 3 is light. I remember doing that.
Or…not. Because I’m reading Book 3 right now, and what happens? The villain attacks Phoebe, my heroine—my main character, mind you—and she suffers a concussion and loses her memory.
Hello, oatmeal, my old friend.
I feel like an idiot for making this mistake—and a copycat idiot, to boot, for making the same mistake in successive books. The good news is, I learned from my mistake. If you want meringue, do not start by making oatmeal. Don’t let Dave have a heart attack, and don’t give Phoebe a concussion. (And this is good news for Jilly, too: so far, she doesn’t have to confront another batch of day-old oatmeal.)
These characters must have crises of some sort. But no more medical emergencies. Not if they’re living in Meringuelandia.
Lesson learned. I hope.
What about you? Do you find yourself making the same kinds of mistakes in your writing?