There’s nothing like red ink to motivate me. Sometimes, I get lucky and give a manuscript to my critique partners and the only things I have to fix are small things–word choices, awkward sentences, and adding more description. (That’s almost always a given). And sometimes, like now, I’ve screwed up more than usual. I was concentrating so hard on making Lux and Keon come to life, I muddled through a mushy plot until the first body appeared.
Once I read the scribbles on my pages, I realized I had TONS of opportunities to jazz up the clues from the first chapter on. Which is what I’m doing. But, boy, has that made the rewrites more work. Work that is worth every minute of my time.
Plotting is usually my main focus when I start a book. That’s how my brain works. But knowing what happens and getting it on paper–so that it’s interesting and the dynamic builds–isn’t always the same thing. And one of the best ways to do that is to bring in the action sooner, to introduce characters affected by what’s happening, and showcase them so that when things happen to them, the reader cares.
The plot starts when Lux drives to storage units she’s rented to sort through some of her dead parents’ things and decide what to keep and what to sell. She discovers that some of her favorite items are missing, but the only way to steal them is to punch in a code at the main gate and another code to open the heavy metal doors of the units. The only other person who has those two codes is Cook, the one person Lux cherishes who worked for her mother and father. Cook would never betray her. So what happened?
In Chicago, Lux was a newspaper reporter. When she moved to Summit City, she decided to freelance, writing articles for newspapers and magazines. She’s used to digging for information, and that’s what she does in Heirlooms To Die For.
In each book, I hope to give her a different topic that she’s working on to meet a deadline. In the first book, Bad Habits, she was researching drug addiction, and the plot played into that. In this book, she’s writing an article about Aging in America. That, too, connects to two of the book’s subplots. One of Tyson’s favorite elderly ladies, who’s a regular at the community center where he works, suffers a mild stroke and is sent to rehab to learn to walk again. And then Keon’s grandmother falls and breaks her hip. His dad brings her to Summit City to live with him and his wife until she’s better. The difference is, Elsie is a cheerful, friendly person and everyone at the center misses her. Mrs. Johnson is a bitter, mean-spirited woman whom everyone dreads spending time with.
It feels like I’m getting the balance of the book right now. A theft, two murders, and lots of suspects. Keon’s family. And Lux and Keon’s relationship. I want to include serious topics, but my Lux books are supposed to be my FUN series. My teeter totter of goals got a little out of sync for a while, but I’m beginning to find my happy medium. I’m halfway through rewrites. I only have another half to go. I’m making progress.
So, once again, thank heavens for critiques and rewrites. Some people might be able to get everything right the first time around. But the good news? You don’t have to. You can always make your manuscript better when you polish.