I wrote a story a couple of years ago, and I just fell in love with my main character. He’s a sharp-tongued charmer, fluent in sarcasm and dry wit. He’s a flawed liar with a crooked grin. I loved him.
After a quick first draft and a couple more revisions for polish, I sent him off to a publisher for consideration. He sent me a very polite rejection letter. I tweaked a little more and asked and editor friend for an opinion. More rejection.
I took my work home and placed it on a shelf where it could stew or cure or whatever manuscripts might do when ignored by their creator. I got busy on a couple of other projects that consumed my time.
Then last week something curious happened. I started to get a few projects ready to enter in a writing contest, and my lonely little manuscript began to wave at me, begging to enter the contest, too. It was a fine idea.
I pulled the notebook out and decided to re-read the first ten pages—the only ones that really mattered for the contest. Even if other parts of the story were weak, the first chapter was terrific. I was sure of it.
Until I read it.
What was I thinking? This work in progress was still in its awkward teen years. No wonder it flailed so helplessly in the big world—it wasn’t ready to leave the nest. I decided that ten pages wasn’t too much to iron out for contest. I got to work.
I opened my document. I opened the hard copy with all my margin notes. I read the first chapter—it wasn’t good.
The mood was wrong. My main character was mean, not quirky. His flaws weren’t cute—they were just flaws. I realized that all of my main character’s sardonic wit and charm was in my head, and not on the page.
I resisted the urge to hit the delete key on my laptop. Instead, I reached for my favorite blue ink pen and a thick stack of notebook paper and curled up on my bed with my lap desk. I returned to the place where I first fell in love with the idea of writing down my stories. I let my fingers form the words with imperfect spacing and full, indigo loops. I poured my soul onto the page and connected with my character in a very physical act.
I wrote about a man who had pain that developed from a broken past. He was still scruffy and misfit, but now he had a family and a sense of humor. His methods weren’t efficient and his motives weren’t pure, but he had a mission, and so did I.
In just a few hours, chapter one was revised. My hero was reborn. I can proudly say that he is well on his way to battling his demons and winning the fair maiden. Oh, she’ll teach him a lesson first, the same lesson that a second look taught me. I had to see him with honest eyes—both his good and bad traits—before I could find the man worth loving.