July 15th, 2004

A Pocket Full of Murder

Reading and Writing (hold the Arithmetic, please)

Wow.  I knew the day would come, but I didn't expect it would be so soon.  Maybe it isn't really that soon, but...
I'm reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to Nicholas.  And he loves it.  Not only does he listen attentively (albeit while wriggling in his chair and occasionally jumping up to look at the pictures), but he can't wait for the next chapter.  "Why can't we read the whole thing now?" he wanted to know after tonight's reading was done.  And then he said, "I'm going to read it myself," and hurried off with it to the other room.  Not that he can actually read, of course -- we're still working on the alphabet -- but he obviously wanted to.
*sniff*  They grow up so fast... not that I'm complaining, though.  I love reading aloud, and doing all the voices.  :)
*   *    *
Now onto the writing part.  Those who keep track of my LiveJournal, or have chatted with me in e-mail, will recall that back in January I submitted the complete manuscript of my original fantasy novel Knife to an editor at a major YA publishing house.  Today I got her reply, which was both candid and encouraging.  Not to mention detailed, which I appreciate enormously because it helps me know exactly what she's looking for and what things in the book need to change.
I think she's really right about the changes, too, and it's not just One Person's Opinion.  Everything she said rang true with my own Inner Editor.  The sense of crisis and urgency to the heroine's quest needs to be heightened; there needs to be more showing of certain important details, not just stating them (indeed, right now some of the telling actually seems to contradict what's been shown); some of the characterization needs work; and I have to be more assertive in bringing out the central theme.  I'm ready to do all these things -- indeed, I'm sure I'll feel much happier about the book once I've done them.  The only question is, how to tackle all this?
At first I wondered if I ought to just use the present manuscript as an outline and rewrite the whole book from scratch -- after all, I wrote the first draft ten years ago, and my approach to writing has changed a good deal since then.  But on the other hand, the editor didn't say there was anything wrong with the book structurally, or stylistically:  just that there were a number of questions raised by the text that needed answers (or better answers than I'd given, anyway), and also some inconsistencies to be smoothed out. 
It's a difficult decision to make.  Part of me worries that if I don't rewrite the book I might not be assertive enough in making the necessary changes -- too afraid of murdering my darlings, and perhaps it'd be better to murder them all at once and start fresh.  But my husband thinks that rewriting is a pretty extreme approach, and probably unnecessary given that the editor seemed to like most of the original draft.  Plus, as hubby pointed out, there's no guarantee that a rewritten version of the novel would actually be better than the current one -- it might just be different.  Or worse.
So, for the moment, I think I'll just go back over the manuscript carefully, one chapter at a time, and try to insert the missing pieces where they seem most needed or appropriate.  Then I'll see how the whole thing reads.  If I feel satisfied that I've addressed most or all of the editor's questions/suggestions for the book, then I'll resubmit it and -- well, we'll see. 
It's lovely to know that there's an open door there, in any case.