Sunday, June 26, 2011

Back at the Drawing Board

First, let me apologize for the lack of blogging. It's amazing how life can get in the way of actually living. After a few bobbles in my personal job market, I have landed at a good company that, while excellent for making mortgage, hasn't been conducive to keeping up with my writing projects. Almost seven months into this new job, I've finally started finding ways to carve out some much needed "free" time to work on what truly matters to me: the writing.

And speaking of my writing, as the title of this entry states, I have gone back to my first novel. It's been a year and a half since my agent started selling the book, sending it out to publishing houses and while there have been some hits, though not on target, there have been mostly misses. The majority of publishers have stated that the story is good but the writing isn't quite strong enough. Well, that hurt. Funnily enough, I always thought I was a lousy storyteller and the strength of my writing would pull me through that detriment. Always interesting when you learn the opposite of what you thought you know, especially when it pertains to yourself or your perception of yourself.

After careful consideration (and too many reference to the weak writing), I decided to rework the novel, to strengthen the writing and make the book more viable to future publishers. I worked on fleshing out the characters and their back stories. I worked on the multiple grammar issues (though that might be a loosing battle! What can I say, I like a run-on sentence.). I worked on clarification and exposition. And the novel grew from 70k words to almost 87k. Quite the growth spurt. All this time I thought the characters were done but apparently they weren't.

Eagerly I sent the refinished manuscript to my agent. And waited 3 excruciating weeks until she returned from vacation before she responded. Of course, I thought there would be nothing but praise. Of course, I had deluded myself. She had sent it to one of her readers and together they sent me back to the drawing board. Oh, there was praise. My agent loves the book. Loves my voice. Loves the story and the characters.'s just not there yet.

With the addition of 17k words, some portions of the book started to lag. The reader, to whom she had sent the book, thought there were too many characters. Sure she understood that they added to the authenticity of the small town world I had created but she felt that they troubled the waters too much. There were too many names to remember and, since some only appeared once in the book, they just cluttered her brain and detracted from the main story lines and characters.

And then there was the narrator's POV. It becomes clear at the end of the book why the narrator tells the story as he does but until then it might not make sense. As the writer, who knows what's happening at all times and why it is happening, you can "forget" to see your book, your story, your techniques from the outside view. After both the reader remarked that the narrator knew things he shouldn't have known, I could see how the POV was unrealistic (at least until the reader got to the ending). It wasn't the first time I had heard that observation. But to clarify in the beginning feels like it will lessen the ending which makes me apprehensive to do so, but,I suppose clarification (and less frustration) is more important than revelation, especially if there is the possibility that the reader will abandon the book before reaching the end.

So, I have begun the editing process yet again. I am approaching this editing process like a reader. I must be judicious with my cuts. It's not easy but it must be done. The reader stated that this "project should definitely be pursued." She loved the book. She loved the writing. She loved the story and the way I told it. Because of the small town feel of the book and the mysteries involved, she likened it to In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, one of my favorite books of all time. When my agent and I spoke the other day, she said she could see that but stated that the book has always reminded her more of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, another of my favorite books. She believes this could be another book in that vein, with the accompanying phenomenon, which sounds fantastic but, truly, I just want to get published.

So I am back at the drawing board and will return as often as needed to get my novel the bookshelf. It's just what a writer does. And I am a writer.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there, I'm a struggling editor hiding at the other end of the same boat! If you are interested, I have a free month right now on my schedule. I'll be free again in November.

    You can visit me on blogger, but my website is hogandl (dot) wix (dot) com (slash) editing.

    Thanks for your consideration, Leigh