When I was going through the first rounds of Andromeda’s Fall and received the first critiques back from Wendy, I realized that I needed to a change a big scene in the story.
At a guess, I’d bet most (if not all) authors have had to go through something like this at one point. You get feedback and decide that you want to change something small that turns into changing something big. But this requires multiple steps–figuring out what to change and then dealing with the trickle down effect to the rest of the book.
Here’s what happened with Andromeda’s Fall:
In an earlier scene a secret is revealed and my heroine (Andromeda “Andie” Reynolds) needs a little space to process. In my original draft, when the hero (Jaxon Keller) finds her, she’s pretty mad and throws a bit of a fit (literally). Here’s the original scene:
If she’d have been in her cougar form, she would’ve hissed and spit and growled at him, ears back, teeth bared. Instead, she looked down at the bag in her hands and just lost it. Reaching in, she grabbed one of her shoes and hurled it right at Jaxon’s head. She missed.
His hands went up in defense. “Whoa… Andie… hold on now—”
Andie looked around and discovered a book shelf nearby. It was completely juvenile, but the pent up rage and frustration and humiliation she’d been lugging around with her for the last days on her miserable cross country journey had finally blown a gasket. Books started flying off the shelf. Each one punctuated by a word.
“Don’t. You. Tell. Me. To. Calm. Down.”
A satisfied feeling welled up inside her with every single ‘oof’’ that indicated she’d hit her target. She was so busy launching her missiles, she didn’t notice until it was too late that Jaxon had made his way closer. Suddenly his arms were around her, pinning her like steel bands.
My feedback, both from Wendy as well as my critique group was that this came off as juvenile but also made her look a little dim that she didn’t figure out his secret (what she’s angry about) much sooner. Now, personally I’d never throw anything at someone, but in books if the scene is done right, I often enjoy those moments. Maybe because it’s an opportunity to live vicariously. However, I did completely agree that her anger did make her look stupid for not having seen the signs earlier. So…time to rewrite.
The trouble is, it wasn’t just this scene that needed re-writing. Often when a scene needs to be redone, it means that any big points leading up to that moment need redoing, as well as the reaction bits that come afterward. Sigh.
In this case, I had to go back and make Andie figure it out faster. I also changed the way Jaxon finally confesses to her. I even changed her motivation slightly – making her more righteous. So LOTS of rewriting. Here’s how the scene above ended up:
Slowly she stood upright. “Jeez, Keller. You know better than to sneak up on a cougar shifter like that. I could’ve attacked you!”
“Sorry,” he muttered, sounding anything but. “I’ve been waiting for you for a while. What took you so long?”
“Excuse me? But there is this little snowstorm that got in my way.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. “Besides, I can’t believe you’re asking me anything right now. I’m still pissed about being snuck up on, and don’t get me started on being followed.”
Jaxon held up his hands. “Why don’t we go upstairs where it’s warmer to talk about this?”
She gave him a stony look, her lips flattened and eyes narrowed, before marching toward the stairs. “You just want to get me away from that wall of guns,” she muttered as she passed him.
“The thought hadn’t really crossed my mind,” he said to her backside.
There’s more, but it would give too much away. :) Originally, this scene was fairly small in the scheme of things. But you can sort of see how my decisions to change it ended up cascading to some major changes within the book (motivation is usually a huge thing to change for your MC).
Lessons learned for me?
First, critiques are well worth the time and effort. You may not always agree, but feedback can play a large part in how your book ends up. In this case, I was very grateful for the feedback because I believe (very strongly) that I ended with a much better book. And I eventually ended up with a contract with The Wild Rose Press
Second, as a pantser, most of my heavier lifting is done after the first draft is on paper. That’s when I tend to solidify things like motivation, premise, etc. I usually have those loosely in my head when I do a first draft and really solidify when I do the second/third drafts. However, after this experience, I’ve started working some of those out more BEFORE I start writing. I still pants the first draft, but with a few details more concrete in my mind. Based on feedback from Wendy and my critique group on books since then, this small change in my process has been worth it.
To my author friends out there… how have major rewrites in a book impacted either your story or how you write now?