Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Risky Business Moments

Let’s face it, we’ve all looked at something we’ve written and said, “Ack! This isn’t working.” Whether it’s a mere sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, or an entire manuscript, there is that inevitable time when you realize the meat cleaver has to be let loose, wielded with reckless abandon, and the fat must be chopped. 

Look at all that fat! Begone with you, fat!

Hey, it happens. But then again, there are times when this is an invitation for the old Risky Business line to be applied: “Sometimes you just gotta say, ‘What the heck.’” [paraphrased: we are a middle grade blog, after all].

Sometimes you just gotta say, "What the heck"

It is on these occasions that we cast off any inhibitions and do things differently. And I’m talking major overhauls. Some examples:

  • Changing the point of view (I had a 90K manuscript I changed from 3rd to 1st after a Risky Business moment--I ended up putting the project on the old shelf, but I felt the experiment was worthy of the lofty effort).
  • Changing the names/gender of characters (I had a character whose name/gender changed 3 times during different revisions).
  • Cutting the beginning of a manuscript and trying something new (sometimes this can mean scrapping a significant portion of your work…oh, have I done that).
  • Changing the end of a manuscript and trying something new.
  • Adding a secondary plotline, or two, or three (layering that bad boy and giving it some needed depth).
  • Altering your storytelling voice (this can be a monumental revision, especially if you’re writing in 1st person).

Sometimes these drastic changes work, oftentimes not. There are more Risky Business changes writers often make when something isn’t working, and this is where I turn to you. What Risky Business moments have you had that led you to say “What the heck”?

* Now feel free to slide down the hall in your socks, underwear, sunglasses, and a dress shirt (collar up, of course).


  1. I'm currently re-writing a novel that was over 300,000 words in the first draft, from 3rd person into 1st (among other changes) and it's actually quite liberating. I mean, yeah, it's a lot of work, but that's nobody's fault but my long-winded own.

    Great point, thanks, Mike!

  2. I'm undertaking a major Risky Business by rewriting my novel from the first person perspective of two main characters. It works well in my imagination...now I'll see how well it turns out in the actual story.

  3. Oh, thanks for posting this! I'm in the middle of a rewrite too! I'm glad I'm not alone!

  4. good luck with this! wow, im impressed! loved this movie as a kid too :)

  5. I've rewritten a couple of novels, changing from 3rd to 1st person. And I've changed tenses, too. I think the big changes can open doors that you didn't even know existed.

  6. Do you got to put all of these gems into a Syd Feld type book. I bet it'd sell. 90K? Supremely jealous.

  7. I am so uncomfortable writing in anything other than third person. I don't know why. I've had those chopping moments though on some of my books. Winter's Discord went through that several times.

  8. Changing the gender of a character, three times?! Wow, that's an overhaul indeed, lol.

  9. I have book slated to be rewritten in the 1st person, but that's only after I finish the two I have going in the 3rd!

    I rewrote my first book several times. It was painful, but paid off!

    If it doesn't kill ya.... ;)

  10. I think the propensity for 3rd person omni, or even 3rd ... somewhere between limited and omni ... for a lot of us comes from reading a lot of epic fantasy. Or is that just me?

  11. I don't like I'd allow myself to have a Risky Business moment, hehe. The idea would pop into my head and I'd be "nah, you've worked hard to get it like that. Why change it?". That could be the reason why I don't get far when I write...

  12. Changing gender three times? Boy? Girl? And .....? Sorry, couldn't resist.

    I have a book I started in 2001 that has been through EVERYTHING. It was first told through multiple POVs that I switched to first person. It was written as a journal; I switched to (mainly) straight narrative. It took place over three years; I condensed it to one. This was work that was done before my agent put me through 5-6 revisions. If it ever sells, you know the drill.

    It's better now, that's for sure!

  13. Rewrites are a pain in the neck! I'm going through a first pass revision now and it's making my head spin!

  14. Matt, I'd totally agree on that. Epic fantasy is my foundation, so naturally most POV is 3rd person. My personal idol and author that I've modeled my writing on is George RR Martin, so I love 3rd person limited with some omni in there. I've tried 1st person and it just doesn't work for me...even in more contemporary settings.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!