Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reworking a set-aside novel

Last June, I finished a second draft of my third novel, When Your Mother Doesn't. I proofread it and then sent it out to several trusted early readers. The story concerns three women, a mother and two daughters, who are getting together for the first time in 24 years.Weaving together by means of this reunion, I tell the stories of each of them and how they came to be who they are in relationship to each other.

I had tried something experimental in the first daughter's story by using reverse chronology, and while the general comments about the book were very favorable, only one person liked the experiment. The other four readers felt confused by it or had to keep looking back at what was happening to keep things straight. Not good news for me.

I'm currently on a writing retreat at the Oregon Coast and one of my tasks was to reread Frankie's story and see how I could resolve this issue. I decided to scrap the experiment and go with a more straightforward telling of the story. That required quite a few changes and I also decided to simplify Frankie's life. I'd written the other two stories first and felt a need to make Frankie's story as complex and dramatic as her sister's and her mother's, but I realized today that that was both unnecessary and inauthentic, for part of Frankie's story is that it isn't all that dramatic. My challenge is to make it compelling in its ordinariness. I'm not sure I've succeeded in that yet but I think I'm closer.

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