After three years of living and breathing the story I had written, I had to make some serious changes. And the new novel was going to be vastly different from what I had been writing. The story I wanted to tell, wasn’t going to work. And if I was going to try to do anything realistic with this, I had to bend.
First, I had to remove 50,000 words! My goal was to get 135,000 down to 85- 87,000 tops.
Then I had to address the fact that my main characters didn’t have names.
By this time I had sailed into a third book. And it was here that I had decided (at the end) to name them. Even when I was pitching the first book, and trying to sell the “unnamed” concept, I knew my characters’ names. But I was keeping it a secret. And when I would edit the third book and get to the part where their names were revealed, I got a chill. I wanted the readers to have that same reaction.
But I had to compromise. I was able to give my music executive lady her name pretty easily. I admit I stole Jen’s cool last name from a character in another book.
I had also just watched Zero Dark Thirty. I re-created Jennifer Montgomery with Jessica Chastain’s performance and her brass, ‘I take no BS from anyone attitude’ voice in my head. I was amazed at how much more I liked Jennifer. And so when I started re-writing, this new strong woman came front and center and stole the show.
Jen’s back story had originally been very different. Only after the pitch conference did I realize how I had tortured this poor woman with a tragic past and had her crying every other chapter.
In thirty days I had my first new chapter and then the rest of the story unfolded from there. Through creative editing, I was able to keep a significant amount from the original story and I had fun writing new chapters, for my new strong leading lady.
Jamie Miller was another story. Writing the equivalent of three books at that time became so difficult that I would go weeks without touching it. In that time, other stories started to come to me. I was working on something else and had given the woman in the story the name Jennifer. Call it coincidence, call it lazy, call it whatever you want, I seem to write better and faster using that name. The male’s name in that other story, however, was Jonathan. So while struggling to put a name to my singer, who had been so personal to me, I tossed the name Jonathan around for him too. But it didn’t feel right. I still liked the idea of the two J’s and so I settled on Jamie.
But I not only had to get used to Jamie having a name (regardless of what it was), his entire identity had to change. In the end, I embraced the new Jamie and fell in love with him all over. When I write for him now (I’m still working on the sequels), physically he still resembles my singer, but he’s his own man.
I also collapsed a few characters into one. Jen had originally been married and divorced from someone else. Michael Bradley, who is also based on a real-life singer, was Jen’s best friend and one time (brief) lover in the original version. But it was too long of a back story and complicated. I still remember when I had the thought… what if Michael was Jen’s ex-husband?
And so Michael was completely transformed. He had to be. Originally, he was always in the shadows and would only come out when Jen needed her hand held. Writing for the new Michael was a lot of fun. Anyone who’s read the more recent version always commented how much they like Michael. He also anchored Jen into becoming a more realistic character.
Underneath the sexy, sarcastic banter, even I wasn’t sure. . . is there still something between them?
To be continued.