Chip away everything that doesn't look like an elephant
I've been wrestling with what to do about a novel that I wrote back in 2006. It has a few good bits, and the story arc isn't too bad, but overall I would have to classify it as crap. Not entirely worthless crap, but crap nonetheless.
Is this a problem?
Well, considering that it was the first novel I wrote, and a NaNoWriMo novel at that, I shouldn't be too hard on the poor little thing. I learned a tremendous amount about the nuts and bolts of writing, about the bigger picture issues of writing, and also about myself AS a writer. It holds a special place in my heart as the first large-scale effort of my fiction writing life.
Still... it's crap.
I keep meaning to rewrite it, to fix it, to turn it into the gripping action adventure piece I visualized.
* Cut out the slow, turgid opening, and make the reader work a bit at figuring out what the hell is going on for the first 15 pages.
* Turn all of that plodding, world-building exposition in the middle into snappy dialogue, preferably an argument between two attractive people. Even better if they are both dripping wet, and one of them is trying to hide an erection.
* Delete the 1000 words where the villain explains why she's going to kill the hero, the 300 words that laboriously describe the gun, and the 500 words that describe how he narrowly avoids being killed. Just have her draw, fire, hit him, and make that the end of a chapter before switching to one of the subplots.
* etc., etc., etc.
I actually have mapped out a whole set of fixes and new plot elements. I've even written some of the scenes for the "revision" of the book.
Am I better off just starting over? Will revising and rewriting be more troublesome than simply writing it all afresh? If I print out a copy of the MS as it currently exists, and make a note of what to save & what to chuck, I can just salvage what was good whenever I get there in the story.
Instead of a forced, scalpel-glinting, bone-deep makeover imposed on my much beloved, but deeply flawed first effort, this feels more like creating the conditions for a rebirth. The original soul in a new and better body.
Damn, I sound like a mad scientist, don't I? Good thing I don't run a cloning & cryogenics lab.
Still, this makes me feel much better about how to proceed. Since I'm all about framing the emotional context for my writing, look for notes on my progress.
Posted Thursday, May 21, 2009