Monday, April 23, 2007

The Essential Truth

Nancy Mercado's session on Revisions at the SCBWI Retreat was excellent. She gave a list of questions to ask yourself as you go through your manuscript. All of them spot-on-point issues. But one that really struck me was the most basic question: What is the essential truth of your story? If you cannot answer that one, your manuscript is in trouble. But it is interesting, especially in the case of plot-driven stories, that we can sometimes forget to ask ourselves that.

I considered my own WIP. It wasn't that there was no essential truth or significant, overriding theme, but I do believe it wasn't coming through enough in the story. Your reader shouldn't have to look that hard for it, but at the same time, it shouldn't be some blaring "moral of the story" hammer to the head either. It should be there in the way your MC looks at his mother, or the way he cuts his steak, or the way he jumps into the conflict and tackles the problem, or in the price that he must pay for success, or in his failure to navigate his own obstacles.

So, I have already been going through my chapters and weaving that thread more clearly into my narrative, giving my story more depth and raising the stakes for my MC.

So what's your essential truth?


  1. I don't know!!!

    But I'm not panicking yet. I think my bigger problem is that I don't really understand how to determine what the truth is. What is an essential truth? And how do I find mine?

    I'm fine when it comes to writing dialogue, and picking scenes apart and doing all the things I need to do to get this story written, but when it comes to looking at the big picture, I'm totally blind.

    Maybe I can't figure out what it is because I don't have one! I think I might just have to obsess about this all day.

  2. Ugh, revisions. The most challenging part of the entire process, I think. Thanks for sharing your epiphany.


  3. It sounds like the retreat was thought-provoking, Mary Ann. I hope you tell us more!

    I haven't finished anything, of course, but I can get obsessive about what I've already got: picking over it, then re-picking and re-picking again.

    Are you going to Meet the Editors Day in June? I'm thinking about it and maybe I'll even work up the courage to submit a first page...

  4. Wow. They sure make you think at these workshop, don't they? I'm glad you're having the time of your life.

  5. Some people actually love the revision process...I'm not one of them. But I don't hate it either. I just get so antsy, wanting to have it done. But I am really making myself consider and thoughtfully reconstruct things if need be.

    Linda, don't worry. After completing the whole thing and revising 5 chapters and adding one more, I am just now figuring out that essential truth bit.

    I will share more of the great insights from the Poconos in my next post, Margaret. I hope it's helpful. I'm not sure if I'm going to attend the editors day, yet. I know they are already half full.

    Yeah, Aisha. They do make you think...hard.

    Stay tuned for some more of those thought-provoking nuggets of wisdom...

  6. Yeah, but Mary Ann, you'd think that after 5 heavy-duty revisions (yes, five!!!), I'd be able to figure this one out.


    Looking forward to the tidbits so I can have more to freak about. :D


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