Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Frankenstein Effect

A few years ago I completed a manuscript of about 100k words. Long yes, but super cool...or so I thought. Then my writers group worked it over and gave me great feedback, so many places to tighten the plot and cinch the story into shape. Please note that I was more than willing to 'kill my darling sentences', chop subplots, and had cut it back to 80K words before these edits began. This was not a first round issue. The problem I faced with all the great feedback was HOW to implement it. I took all the ideas and totally Frankensteined my story into a monsterous mess. Fitting all the chopped bits together without leaving gross scars in the story posed a problem.
The good news is, I recognized my best efforts weren't working. So I shelved it and started on something else. The starting on something else here is key. Keep writing.

Recently in helping a friend work through her manuscript I was able to explain that a great edit will bring the pieces of your story together like a mosaic. Fitting interesting new bits into the context of the larger picture, or taking out the ones that confuse the image.
How do you know when you are editing the right aspects of your story?

Well this is what we came up with:

Much like this mosaic of fish all swimming in the same direction, a good edit, addition or cut, will help all the elements of the story "swim together" instead of being forced into a stitched mess. Working with Inker Debbie the other day, she suggested a change to her finished manuscript. As we discussed the change, other plot elements suddenly became more relevant. It added to the motivation of her characters in subsequent scenes and it brought a WOW factor to a lot of what she had already written. This is a mosaic change, one small piece that makes the other pieces of her story look better and feel more real.

A Frankenstein edit is one that puts a strain on the other elements or causes you to dissect what is working and stitch something else in to keep it consistent.

Let's put it in a practical situation:
Imagine Cinderella without her ugly stepsisters-an interesting idea that would put major holes in the plot and create a dilemma for the author who has to invent new ways for Cinderella to suffer so that we can sympathize with her. (Potential Monster edit)

Now imagine Cinderella with one evil selfish stepsister and one kind sister-both more beautiful than she is...this opens new avenues of suffering and character development where the future princess can show compassion and sisterhood but might find she feels insecure in her beauty when compared to her sisters. This works within the elements that already work in the story. The sisty uglies already work as antagonists we're just making them more interesting bad guys.(Potential Mosaic)


  1. I think this is a great concept. I've definitely started "Frankensteining" stories before, only to find them more jumbled, more complex, and less marketable. Editing can be a frustrating process but keeping a cool head and making the right changes will produce an awesome book!

    Donna, you'll get the right edits one day! I have faith in you:)

  2. Great commentary! I haven't gotten as far as you all in the writing process, but I'm hoping to learn as much as I can from you. Maybe I'll save myself some heartache and frustration.

  3. You are scaring me as I am preparing to dig in to my next edit off the Inker feedback. BUT, it was good feedback and I think I know what I need to do to improve the story without completely rewriting. *fingers crossed*

  4. You'll nail it, Linda. I have complete faith in you. :)