Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rewriting the novel

This past week I’ve been at the Oregon coast in a combination vacation and writing retreat. I’ve spent time with good friends, watched some movies, read a novel and a fascinating book on the history of costume and fashion, and been working on the second draft of my second novel.

It’s been four and a half months since I looked at the manuscript. I set it aside to get some perspective and as many of you know, I wrote 100 poems in the interim. I’m delighted to see that the novel holds up, that the plot is interesting, exciting even, and the characters quite likeable. I’m also really interested in what details needed changing and what needed rewriting. Most of the rewriting has to do with the interior life of the characters, where I didn’t go deep enough or where I had the character think the same idea too many times. Another big rewrite challenge has been chapters that have a clever last sentence but still end too abruptly, as if I found that clever saying and that seemed enough.

I even found the following sentence: “His anxiety rose up in his throat like a bad steak sandwich.” When I read this to my friend Diane, we both had a hearty laugh. My book is a serious, tense mystery, not a comedy. What was I thinking? I suspect I was in one of those too-conscious places where I thought I needed a metaphor and so I made one without thinking about its tone or where it would land on the corny-o-meter.

In this week, I’ve been through the whole thing and I like it. Several issues remain to be ironed out (some timeframe issues) and the placement of all the chapters (two stories are interwoven) but I’m feeling much closer to being done.