Friday, August 7, 2009

Girl Running: To Revise or To Rewrite—That is the Question

Okay, I’m going ahead and putting it out there. This is just the first chapter of Girl Running.
I had some POV issues in the original draft, but given that the first chapter is a recollection, it was easy to correct, sticking with one character. The rest of the story vacillates between close 3rd and omniscient 3rd, something I’m really struggling with. I also have a genre conflict. It probably fits into Young Adult, but some rather adult issues arise. And of course there’s the word count…

Bear in mind that although I have revised the beginning in order for something to happen in the first pages, this is still a rough draft. (To be honest, I’m only calling it rough, in case any of you readers are thinking, “Wow, this is really rough…”) As my first serious attempt at a novel, I had much to learn. I have cut out a lot of the exposition, and deleted much of the explaining before and after the fact. I’m not saying I cut it all, but I sure would appreciate knowing how I’m coming across.

Also, if anyone enjoys playing sleuth: What do you gather about each character from what is supplied in this first chapter.
Honestly—does it hook you?
Here goes...

Chapter 1 (deleted)


  1. I really like the vibe between Leila and Ian. You definitely pick up on the chemistry between them and I found their reactions and dialouge to be quite good.

    Honestly, though, I'm not wild about the opening first few paragraphs. After I read the entire passage, I went back and re-read the first paragraph and it made more sense to me. But the first time through...

    In journalism, sometimes when you write an article the crux of the story, the most important element, doesn't come out until several paragraphs into the article. We called it "burrying the lead." We were trained to hit the reader with that most important nugget immediately - to hook the reader. Sound familiar? I kind of had the feeling reading this passage that you burried your lead.

    As I said, I think the interaction between the two characters is really strong. For me, the passage would work better if you got to it faster. Drop Leila right into the action ... the details about her beach run are less important, in my opinion, and perhaps could be weaved into some additional dialouge between her and Ian.

    Also, there are a few spots where the writing is a bit passive:

    "With one eye closed and a sideways grin, he wiped his hands and turned his visor back to the front."

    "Ian wiped his hands, turned his visor back to the front and gave Leila a sideways grin with a single eye closed."

  2. Scott,
    Thanks so much for your comments. Since the initial writing, I have come to appreciate how important those first few paragraphs are. Yet even after setting aside this story—my firstborn—for well over a year, I’m finding that my objectivity is not what I hoped it would be.

    Therefore, your honest observations are exactly what I need. Gets my writing synapses sparking (you know how good that feels). There are parts of this story (mostly in the dialogue) that I don’t envision doing a huge rewrite, and so I’m glad the vibe between Leila and Ian came across effectively. There is a lot of information I cut, but I hope the emphasis on the blues music, reference to her father, to the nightclub, to running (and long distance at that) came across.

    Back when I first labored over those opening paragraphs, I was quite enamored with them, but in retrospect, I can see where they slow things down. I’m not sure how fine the line between revise and rewrite is, but it’s these areas that make me lean toward the latter.
    Do you think there was just too much description and detail? Or was it more the fact that those paragraphs were there and delayed the interactions between Leila and Ian?

    Thanks again for your input.

  3. I thought this was great! You have an engaging writing style. I agree with Scott, though, get to the interaction of Leila and Ian sooner. Keep in mind, I'm no expert! It definitely makes me want to read more, and it's obvious you are talented.

    By the way, I linked here from your comment on Weronika's post today. She seems so mature for her age, doesn't she?

  4. LW,
    Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for concurring with Scott. I've already reworked the problem area and think I'll repost in a few days. I hope you'll have a moment to drop by again, especially since you write YA (yes, I checked out your profile and blog). I’m concerned that Leila’s ‘voice’ may sound too mature, although, for a fact, she is mature for her age—hopefully that comes across also.

    Re: Weronika—if I had what she’s got at her tender age, I wonder how much farther along I’d be at my age…

  5. JB,
    As far as the amount of description and detail, no I don't think there's too much. I think that is your style, and it's absolutely fine.

    Lately, I've been trying to read/listen to a lot of different authors. I am absolutely convinced that there is no right or wrong as far as that goes. James Lee Burke, for example, uses a lot more description and detail than Harlan Coben, but both work just fine. It's always been that way. Think about the way Hemingway wrote as compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    The story is the bottom line. I don't think you want so much as to bog it down. Isn't that's really the best guideline?

    Actually, to be honest, I'm a little jealous of you. Your work, you writing vocabulary has so much breadth to it than mine, I feel like a simpleton. I'm reading Cormac McCarthy's, The Road. My god, the language he uses, the words... it's like the difference between a major league baseball player and a high school player.

    I think all we can do is aspire to keep getting better. Neither of us may ever reach McCarthy's level, but I believe you and I both have the talent to become good, solid fiction writers.