My manuscript is not quite there.
You know what I mean. I’m pleased with the plot, the characters, and the conflict. I think the climax is close to what I want it to be (close but not THERE). The final chapter does what it should do. Still, something isn’t working.
I sent it to a wonderful editor who gave me line-by-line and summary feedback. She diagnosed part of my problem: my protagonist doesn’t have enough of an arc. In the end, she needs to be a different person than she was in the beginning. In my head, she was, but readers don’t live in my head (lucky for them!) so somehow, I need to capture her growth in the narrative.
For two months, I’ve worked on this, looking for places to inject more self-reflection, for her to show moments of growth through her responses. As she is a woman struggling with mental illness, growth relates to symptom improvement. Symptom improvement is difficult when one is under tremendous stress—which I, as a writer, must put her through—but it’s a test she must pass. The reader needs to see that she has the insight to learn from her mistakes and the bravery to overcome horrific challenges.
The other problem I need to fix is what to leave unresolved. In mysteries, we like tidy endings. Bad guy caught, end of story. But life isn’t always like that. And my bad guy is part of a network of human traffickers, and I know, realistically, that cutting off one tentacle doesn’t kill the whole monster.
I’m less enamored with neat and tidy—in my reading and my writing—but what do I leave unresolved?
I considered letting my bad guy escape, but that’s not the correct resolution to my overall narrative arc. Perhaps one or two of his underlings slip through the cracks. That’s believable, and it might give the message that “this little piece of the world is okay, but the monster is still out there.” Will that help the readers understand that human trafficking is a real, horrific, EVERYWHERE crime? (This is the social worker in me sneaking out. I can be an Evangelist on this subject). Will it still be a satisfying read for the mystery lovers out there?
Over the next few days, I’ll try this solution. If that doesn’t fix my problem, I’ll try something else.
I won’t send the manuscript out until it’s “there.”
How about you? Has this ever happened in your writing? How do you handle this kind of problem?