Why I’m reheating a novel
When I was being published by Booktrope my writing life took a different turn than I’d envisaged. We agreed that I should build on my characters Jake Talbot and Frankie Hayward to create a series, in which Finding Louisa will be book 3. I have yet another plotline devised for my two heroes, so I could write a fourth book, but I’ve decided to set them aside for a while.
My reasoning for this is simple. I’d like to pitch fresh work out to publishing houses and agents, but I feel it’ll be more difficult to attract their attention if I’m offering a fourth book in a series. I could come up with a completely new story idea, but prior to Booktrope I was writing a variety of different types of novel including paranormal, romance and mysteries, and have several books on the back-burner. Some of these are finished manuscripts and some are half finished.
Out of all of them, one in particular, a part finished novel, has been tugging at me more than the others. It’s about an English detective inspector, Eddie Malvern, who was shot while on duty and is pensioned out on medical grounds. Since losing his job he’s let himself go, and his life is a mess. Late one night an hysterical woman phones, begging him to help her clear her name of murder. Against his better judgement, and at the risk of losing his generous pension, he reinvents himself as a private investigator.
I like the concept, and the storyline, so why the hell didn’t I finish it in the first place? I’d written over 60,000 words, but decided to junk it. Why? All I recall is that I couldn’t get my complex plot to work, hence I’d set it aside for a rethink. Opening the document in Word I discovered that I’d last worked on it over four years ago! To be honest, when I sat down to read through, I found that a lot of my writing was absolutely cringe-worthy. Not only was Eddie’s living space messy, but so were my transitions from one location to another. In fact, the only thing to congratulate myself on was that I’d had the common sense to abandon it.
They say that time’s a great eye-opener, and it’s certainly made me read my own work with fresh eyes. The question is, should I leave it alone or go for a mega rewrite?
Here are a few of the faults I found
1) The narrative did not start at a maximum point of personal change. I drivelled on and took the opening chapters away from the main thrust. It felt like reading backstory.
2) My main character, Eddie, was wooden because I wasn’t completely inside his head.
3) A secondary character was outshining my main protagonist.
4) The plot did NOT work.
5) It was written in third person, which was distancing me from the protagonist.
6) There was far too much telling, not enough showing.
7) On rereading some scenes I had no idea what was going on. I’d assumed that the reader would know what I knew and hadn’t explained details. Four years on and I was my own reader – and struggling!
8) It’s a pile of crap.
9) The plot did NOT work. (Yeah, I keep coming back to that one)
So, what on earth was I going to do?
The first thing to sort out was the plot. If I couldn’t get that straight in my head then there was little point in doing anything else. Realigning the plot took place in my head, not on paper. You’ll notice from my Instagram feed that I take photos of wildlife and the local countryside, so while out walking and hunting for subjects, I let the plot bubble away to see what surfaced. I call this process ‘mulling.’ It took about five weeks of mulling before I’d convinced myself that I could make the plot work.
Next I needed to enliven my protagonist. More mulling, still nothing written on paper. I spent hours talking to Eddie in my head, asking him a thousand questions. Where did you go to school? What are your parents like? What kind of a relationship do you have with them? What’s the back-story between you and your younger brother? These were all things I needed to know in order to make my plot stronger, not just to flesh-out my character.
My next decision was to take advice from a successful author. A few years back I went to a talk by the highly talented Adele Parks, a local author, who explained what she did in order to get her first book published. After an initial rejection, she went home and changed the entire book from third person to first person, adding immediacy and gaining herself a successful publishing contract. Apparently the publishers said something along the lines of, ‘we don’t know what you’ve done, but it’s much better,’ yet all she’d done was change it to first person. So, this is what I’m going to do. Rewrite in first person from Eddie’s point of view.
Now I have a plan of attack. Now I can rewrite.
To start with I’ve completely cut the first three chapters. Yes, THREE chapters. I feel comfortable that I can weave this information in as the plot flows and let the reader follow Eddie’s investigative trail. What he doesn’t know, the reader won’t know, and hopefully they’ll both unravel the threads and work out the truth together.
To ensure everything goes smoothly, (ho ho!) I’m not working directly into the original Word doc, but have created two more alongside it. One is a working doc which I’m cutting and pasting paragraphs into, then changing to first person. The other is a master doc of the finalised changes – which I’m still finding errors in! To stumble upon these I’m printing out a hard copy, because mistakes are easier to spot on paper.
Once I’ve done all of this all I have to do is finish writing the story, then go and re-edit and tighten everything up even more! Is it worth it? I think so. Go and have a look for yourself. Read my first rough draft of Chapter 1. Read more