I don't know how many of you cook, and by cook I mean prepare meals from scratch of your recipe and design. I do cook, and I've learned something very important about cooking. You can have a great meal in mind, and have all the right ingredients, but it you start with the wrong part, the dish can turn out to be crap.
For instance, when stir-frying Asian-style, you need to follow this basic order:
1) Oil with many of your spices.
2) Onions that you want to carmelize.
4) Veggies that you want to pick up the flavor of the dish.
5) Veggies that you want perfectly crisp and fresh.
If you put the onions that you want to carmelize in too late, they're going to not carmelize, or everything else is going to get burned. If you put the crisp, fresh veggies in too early, they will soften and pick up the flavor of the dish. You have to start in the right place.
And that's what I've blown on Real Stakes. I think I have a pretty good story, and I am convinced that I have some awesome characters. But I started at the wrong point.
If you've been reading the blog, you know my WIP started with a piece of flashy fiction. It was not a character-driven piece at all. It was pretty much 85% intrigue, 10% plot, 5% character. A neat little snippet that showed promise for bigger things.
So when I decided to expand it into a novel, I began crafting the characters who would get caught up in the story.
See what happened there?
One of the key differences between traditional suspense and psychological suspense, is that traditional suspense starts with the story, but psychological suspense starts with the people. And that's not what I did. And that's why I'm unsatisfied with my first 15K words, even though they're pretty good words.
Fortunately, unlike a meal, a piece of fiction can be retooled. I need to spend some time thinking exclusively about my characters, and then I need to figure out how to bring them to the table and then throw the story at them, laying out the plot and then throwing some characters into it. It's a subtle distinction, but it can make all the difference in the world.
Everybody's style is different, and every genre is different. Hopefully, fellow writers, you can learn from my bad example and take the time at the very outset of your work to make sure that you're starting it where you want to, and not jumping ahead on your crisp, fresh veggies.