Saturday, October 9, 2010

Back to Where I Started?

Well, I’ve been busy putting together something for Notes From Underground, way ahead of time, which is a little unlike me. Actually, I’m not certain that it’s like or unlike me, seeing as I’ve never had to work under a writing deadline. I suppose that if I had to come up with something from scratch, it might feel entirely different.

At any rate, I’ve written a short story based upon a scene from an earlier unpublished novel of mine—that is, from a sequel to my second novel.* When I wrote Girl Running, and then, Portrait of a Protégé, I had absolutely no idea about writing rules and publishing. I only had a high school-level grasp of English—and the benefit of parents who had a fair handle on English grammar. That’s it. I couldn’t even claim to be an avid reader** Oh, and I had a huge imagination!

After several years of mulling over a particular scenario, and coming up with character backstory, I decided to wing it and simply get the story out of my head and into MS Word. I wrote it for my husband and I had a blast doing it! Impressing Todd was my only desire. I even printed and bound it for him—all 150,703 words!*** He’s the one who planted the idea of publishing, so I will blame all my angst, henceforth, on him.

It wasn’t until I began writing Story for a Shipwright that I investigated what the industry considers ‘good writing.’ I jumped through all the hoops. I read the agents' blogs, got beta readers and revised and revised and revised. I like the story—no, I love the story—I think it is sound and I will publish one way or the other. But I wonder if, in all the advice and critiques and revisions, I have somehow homogenized chrome polished down to pot-metal.

So, here I am, between stories, and it’s my first love that still nags me. Rewriting just one scene, utilizing what I've learned, and then writing it with the liberty of doing it how I want has made me seriously reconsider Leila, a girl raised by a couple of mixed up guys—one black, one white—who just wanted to be Blues musicians and had no business raising a child on the road. I think her story as an adolescent on her own, breaking into womanhood, may be worth a complete rewrite—at least it’s a notion I’m toying with…

* I hesitate to claim my very first completed novel of 23 years agoRelative Survivalbut it qualifies in length.
** Yes, I know that’s blasphemy, but if I started reading anything, I did not have the self-discipline to put it down until it was done, and that can really mess up one's life--especially when one has a family. Borderline OCD?
*** the sequel came in at only 123,753 words


  1. Sounds somewhere between a tragedy and a comedy... in other words, very real-life.

    I say go for it. After doing two rounds of line edits on my first manuscript, GENESIS, I was exhausted with it. Nevermind some real life things I had going on... I ended up putting it down for six months. When I picked it back up, I hated it, and I realized why the edits were never good enough - it's just bad.

    So, I'm doing a complete rewrite right now with drastic changes to the outline. I'm about 10,000 words in. It's daunting to throw away all 125,000 words of the first one, but it had to be done.

    And, let me tell you, the story is going in a completely different direction. I think the first version was just an exploration of the characters for me, and now they are so real they can write their own story. It flows more naturally, now. I am so thrilled already with the new version, I can't believe I ever considered publishing the original.

    Who knows, maybe that spiral bound version I made at Kinko's might be worth something someday... ;D.


  2. Tara, that's actually very encouraging! Although it does feel daunting to can such a huge block of words, we know the story is still there!
    Best wishes for your rewrite! I look forward to your updates!

  3. That printed and bound story from 23 years ago has stuck with you...for a reason. Go for it!

  4. Actually Liza, I should probably clarify that the printed and bound volume is 4 years old--the 23 year old novel is not worth mentioning except for the fact that it does exist!
    Nevertheless, your comment still applies!

  5. I agree with Liza. If it still has you in it's clutches, there's really something there that needs to be revived.

  6. Well, Lydia, if I get far enough in the story, I may have to ask a couple medical questions (I know where to find you, :))
    Thanks for stopping by!

  7. This post makes me happy. I love to see that you are learning new things about yourself and that some buried passions are surfacing again! Have fun with your writing! I have moments like this, but they are often too fleeting. I need to hold on to this kind of stuff longer.

  8. Domey, I have to admit that the idea of writing for myself is wildly exciting to me. It seems I should have embraced that concept a long time ago, but perhaps it's something that takes time to come around to.

    I have to say, though, that the whole premise of Notes From Underground really catapulted me into that mindset. Even though I wrote (and am still revising) my piece in such a way that I hope to not embarrass myself while entertaining others, the notion of 10 pages of whatever I choose has been liberating! THANK YOU for that!

  9. Well, you know what they say: If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it may need a rewrite, but it'll be worth it.

    (Or something like that.)

  10. ...yeah, Nate, as I recall, it was "something like that"! :)

  11. I'd give it another go around. I have a novel that's been sitting in my drawer for so long and yet it still calls for me to rewrite it at some point as well.

  12. T.Anne, it seems there are a whole bunch of us out there--not only do we hear the voices of characters yet to be written, but those characters of the past. They can be oh so persistent!

    ...and, Thanks for stopping by!