Just Found My Suspenders

I am hard at work on yet another re-write of a manuscript that I have been working on now for almost eight years.

Enough already.

You would think, wouldn’t you?

And yet I can’t give up.

When my agent tossed the latest re-write back at me insisting it needed yet another overhaul, I was crushed.

After months of work and thought and examination, I thought I’d finally nailed it.

blind turn
There it is mapped out in color

But I hadn’t.

I see that now. I’m tearing it apart again, sifting for the gold.

One of the resources my agent, Carly Watters at P.S. Literary, recommended I read as I go through this story again, is Super Structure by James Scott Bell. It’s a short book about his 14 signposts that make for a great story.

super structure

The last time I read James Scott Bell (Plot and Structure) was at least ten years ago. I slogged through the book because so many people said it was wonderful. My heart wasn’t in it – I didn’t want to hear what he had to say. It was too hard. It was too complicated. It was not the way I wrote. I’ve always been proud of my pantser ways. They’ve worked for me thus far.

Orly Konig-Lopez, the founder of the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association calls her own style ‘a pantser with suspenders’. I think I get that now.

The signposts that Bell writes about are not going to change my story, they’re going to help me tell it better. He’s not trying to make me write analytically like a plotter, his signposts will guide my story so it doesn’t get lost in my best intentions. When I’m waded down in the middle, I can look up and aim for the ‘mirror moment’ or the ‘pet the dog’. His ideas are a help, not a hindrance. There are so many layers and detours and side trips in this story now that even I can get lost. I could use a few signposts.

I’ve always believed we learn what we need to learn when we’re ready to learn it. This is why I remember nearly nothing from high school even though I got good grades. (I’ve got a great memory.)

It’s also the reason I had to go back to college a second time. The first time was more about getting out of my parent’s house and having a good time. The second time I was paying and I was serious and I soaked in every word of every class. I learned.

Over the weekend, while I was processing Carly’s words, I was tempted to fight them– I’ve put my heart and soul in this story and then some! This is the story!  I’m the writer here.

I also considered tossing the manuscript and moving on. Maybe I’m not all that. Maybe I should stick to nonfiction. I can’t write the book she wants me to write.

But then I decided that I signed with Carly for a reason. She believes in me. But more than that, I believe in her. And I believe this story needs to be told and I’m the one to tell it.

Maybe my story has had such a long and winding road (like me) because its time hasn’t come yet.

But its time will come. I am certain.

All I’ve got to do is adjust these suspenders so my pants don’t fall down.

And get back to work.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.



If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

COMING AUGUST 2018 FROM Pegasus Books (available for preorder now):

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Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at CaraWrites.com.

2 thoughts on “Just Found My Suspenders”

  1. I really like this post, and I couldn’t agree more with the statement that we only learn when we are ready to learn. So much of my personal learning comes from retracing my steps through all the ‘amazing’ informational sources that I just wasn’t into at the time. (My high school English Literature reading list for starters)

    There is a delicate balance between the hubris needed to tell write your story down and the humility needed to make it understandable to everyone else. I have always known you to start from a place of humility so I know once you get past your urge to resist resistance this story will be amazing.

    I can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

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