The End

What I learned from writing a story that needed major plot changes.

No, this is not the end of the blog. I am committed to continuing with this medium, committed to talking about writing and editing, committed to reaching out to readers, writers and those who are simply interested in the writing process.

So why “The End,” because I have FINALLY (and, yes, I am shouting) finished with The Achdus Club book four, “The Wedding Dance.” Now, technically I’m not finished, finished, as I know my editor will have plenty of things for me to work on once she’s edited it. I am, however, finished with my draft of the story and it’s been a longtime coming.

If you follow me on other social media outlets, you may know that I initially had set a goal for myself of finishing this story by August 1.

Well, here we are at December 21 and I just wrote “The End.”

What happened in those few months?

Honestly, I froze! I knew I had made a mistake in the draft and I couldn’t find a way out. As a journalist I always, always fact-check everything. My livelihood depends on my getting the facts right. And when it comes to my novels, I certainly do my due diligence, but sometimes I think well it’s fiction and it’ll make for a better story, so ….

Except in this case it wasn’t just a slight or minor adjustment it was a major plot point that didn’t work. How could I fix a story when I had a fundamental plot point wrong?

Sure I sat at my computer in those intervening months and weeks. I sat and I wrote. I tried to ignore the little voice in my head that begged me to go and finish the book. I tried to do other things … nothing worked.

Nothing worked other than me sitting down, and then one page at a time, one scene at a time going over the story and reworking the plot to reflect reality. It was not easy, it did not go as fast as the initial draft did, but here’s what I’ve found:

  1. My story is actually stronger than it initially was, and I think the characters show a bit more depth and understanding than they did originally. (I hope that’s how readers see it as well.)
  2. When I typed those last two words, “The End”, I felt an incredible rush of joy and accomplishment. I actually sat back in my chair and simply stared at the screen and those two words and smiled.
  3. I found that I can accomplish something that seemed insurmountable at times.
  4. I had lots and lots of typos that I had missed in previous edits because I was so close to the material and so focused on major issues that I missed the micro ones.

How did I do it?

  1. I focused on rewriting things line by line and sentence by sentence rather than the big picture. I found by fixing things as they came up, instead of trying to solve the whole problem at once I was much more effective in my work.
  2. I enjoyed a change of scenery. My local library has several rooms that are private workrooms that patrons can use. You need to reserve the room and you can only use it for one hour if other people are waiting. Usually these are used by tutors and students, business owners for small meetings, etc. These rooms are generally in heavy use during the day. However, in the mornings they are usually empty. If no one was waiting, my local librarians were nice enough to allow me to  stay as long as I needed. Most mornings that meant I had the room for about two hours of completely uninterrupted writing time. Having this set, dedicated time to work over the last few weeks was a huge push forward in my work.

I am grateful that my publisher hadn’t given me a hard deadline; the Aug. 1 deadline was my own self-imposed deadline. As a writer who absolutely loves deadlines, I realize this book wouldn’t be as strong and the last paragraph not nearly as impactful if I hadn’t had the time to really go back and make it all work out.

Snail Mail Surprise!

Let’s face it. For most of us these days, going to the mailbox means opening up more junk mail, the occasional catalog for a company we actually like and finding the dreaded bill.

This week, however, my postal carrier delivered a nice surprise. A girl from New York wrote to me to tell me how much she loves the Achdus Club. It was absolutely adorable! Written in her handwriting, you could tell how much thought and time she put into the letter. I loved seeing the words that were just a little too advanced for her age, which she spelling out phonetically. I think the creative spelling just added to the fun and warmth of the letter.

In this day of limited “fun” mail, why not take a minute or two, grab a note card or even just a piece a paper and send a letter to someone you admire or love or just someone you haven’t talked to for a while. You’re guaranteed to make someone’s day!

Midmonth writing check-in

Getting stuck writing the same scene over and over can feel like you’re just going in circle.

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who posted on and off the blog about having a Jewish book festival for readers and writers. Everyone’s comments were enormously helpful.

I’ll have some more thoughts and things to say on the topic in a future blogpost. For right now, though, if you have any more ideas or would like to get involved with the “Read Religiously Book Fest,” as I”m calling it right now, feel free to reach out and let me know.

In other writing news, I’m knee-deep in the middle of Achdus Club, book four. In fact, I’ve been stuck literally in the middle of the book at the exact same spot for nearly five days. I’ll sit and write. I’ll review some of what I wrote, I’ll revise slightly. Then I’ll delete some text and add some more.

The result was that I wasn’t making any forward progress. I was stuck around 10,100 words. Worse, I was trying to force a scene that wasn’t working no matter what I did.

That’s when I remembered some advice I’d heard from a published author many years ago: If you are forcing a scene it probably doesn’t need to be there. If you stuck with “writer’s block” on the same scene maybe you just need to take it out.

So I did. I took the scene out. Then I promptly wrote some 1,200 words in one sitting. Came back and wrote some more.

And you know what? I don’t miss the scene at all. The fact is, I really didn’t need it. The point I was trying to make with the scene was overly complicated and I had already addressed it early in the story. By trying to force the issue to be “revisited” rather than reminding the reader of what I wanted them to know, I would have lost them in a scene that was boring and uninspired.

Hopefully, the forward momentum will continue now and I’ll be able to reach my August 1 deadline!

Question: Have you ever got stuck at a particular point in your story or with a scene that wasn’t work? How did you handle it? Leave your tips below! 

Seen Around Town

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up your copy of “The Accident” yet, now’s your chance! Jewish bookstores across the county have the book stock. In recent days, the book has been spot in Lakewood, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and more.

Have you seen “The Accident” or any of the Achdus Club novels in your area? Let me know in the comments below!

“The Accident” Is Here!

achdus_club_3-the_accident.jpgTova, Shulamis, Hili, Ruthie and all their friends from Bais Naomi are back as the Achdus Club adventures continue in this third installment of the bestselling series. The book will be in Judaica shops (Jewish bookstores) the week of December 4, just in time for Chanukah. You can also order the book online.  

Want a book autographed for a Chanukah gift? Drop me a line at faylevy@gmail.com and I’ll let you know how we can make that happen!

OK readers, who do you think is in “The Accident” and what do you think the Achdus Club can do about it? 

Post your answers (or your thoughts about the Achdus Club series in general) in the comments section and be entered to win an autographed copy of “The Accident.”

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