Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Book research is a good thing

When the editor at a publishing company handed me a long list of revisions she wanted me to make to my novel, I carefully sorted through each request, but on the inside, I panicked. She wanted one thing, I wanted another. This had to happen and I didn't understand why. That had to go out and on the inside, I started fuming, "You're changing my story!"

But, as it turns out, I've come to understand why she made certain revision requests. She and I have had many chats about the revisions, going over one item here, another there, and discussing the whole issue that my book touches on (domestic abuse -- a topic which I've had experience with and which she not only went through, as well, but specialized in while working as an investigative reporter). We talked about how this book could really be a "mission book" on the domestic abuse issue, and the more I think on the requests that change my whole story, the more I'm accepting the way she is seeing it.

Why? Because her ideas make sense. After all, my protagonist is a medically trained nurse. She'd see my whacked-out antagonist and run like hell. On top of this, she may be desperate for love in her life again, but not THAT desperate (and here again is something I can relate to, as far as recent events are concerned *shudders*). Also, it just doesn't make sense a guy would go around seeing every redhead as his ex-wife. That just DOESN'T go over very well. So what would it be about my protagonist that draws my antagonist to her? Originally, it WAS that she looked like his ex-wife. But now things are different. My bad guy no longer has the luxury of being psychotic anymore. (Yup, that got thrown out the window, too. My story is getting a complete overhaul.) Now this is where chatting with an editor can be helpful, because the editor knew exactly how to solve that problem. Apparently, abusers are commonly attracted to the same "type" of person (I hate the word "victim"). So, it would still work.

One other thing she wants me to do is add more to the story. Yup, you read that right: MORE. Not less. I was confused, of course. I mean, I thought these kinds of books were supposed to be short? (The manuscript is currently at 252 pages.) Ah, but Stephen King had to raise the bar for us novelists by writing LONG books. *sighs* OK, I kid, really. But I have been trying to figure out just exactly what I should be adding to this story. We discussed this in our chats, as well. There was a whole "you should write about this" and "you need to include that" sort of exchange going on. All the same, I didn't know how I was going to write up those scenes and keep the formatting of my chapters consistent (I have a certain "pattern" in how the chapters are organized). Today I spent over an hour at the library doing research and this helped me solve that problem, too. I read about nurses attending a conference on recognizing signs of "intimate partner abuse" and came up with a scene idea here. I read about how a friend could talk to someone they think is in such a relationship and I thought about a scene idea there. I ended up writing down ideas for five different scenes, all of which I think will really add to the story and "flesh" everything out more. I also have a scene in my notebook.

I'm looking forward to hitting the library again next weekend for more research. The bookstore is a helpful "research spot" for me, too, and of course I'm using the Internet for research, as well. So far, I'm thinking all the research I'm doing is going to help me make this story even better -- and meet all the revision requests the editor made without further confusion.


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