Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Countdown: 12: Rereading and Rewriting

The year is 2007. I have just found my ancient manuscript for the book I wrote in junior high. The title is, "Walk Me Home."

The first thing I did was sit down and read the thing. I came away impressed. A fifteen-year-old wrote this? But in spite of being impressed, I knew it wasn't up to publication standards. The plot was good, but the presentation was totally lacking. I had incorporated all of the common conventions of the time: a flashback in the first chapter, long descriptive paragraphs of introduction for each character. And also, the characters were too young. At ages 12 and 13, I couldn't really explore the tragedy and situation of being kidnapped. I couldn't make something bad happen to children.

So I began to rewrite. I changed the title from "Walk Me Home" to "Walk Beside Me," to more accurately reflect the religious images in the novel. The characters got older, ages 14 and 15. Then I cleaned it up, taking out lengthy descriptions and random silliness that made me roll my eyes.

I left a lot of the original material in there, however. I felt I needed to pay homage to the adolescent work.

When I thought the novel was ready, I handed it to my most cynical reader: my husband. The result: Two thumbs down. He couldn't even finish it. He said it was simply unbelievable and at times laughable. Playing Nancy Drew? Going shopping when they should be hiding?

I was crushed and grateful that he didn't read on. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I realized he was right. In a major way. It wasn't enough to simply clean up. I needed to rewrite.

The Nancy Drew scene was cut. Instead I created a scene where the characters to the right thing and still end up in danger. Much higher stakes. The shopping thing? Groan. Only a kid would write such a silly scene. I cut it too. The feeling of suspense and terror needed to be in every scene in the novel. No trying on hats and going to art museums.

As I made these changes, I realized I needed more input. More help. So, in the summer of 2007, I began to search for a critique group.


Annie McMahon said...

So, I'm not the only one that has a cynical husband. I never let him read anything I wrote for that reason. I don't think I could take his comments without feeling crushed. You're courageous, letting him read your novel. :)

Let me guess - you found this great review forum on writing.com?

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

@Annie--writing.com was maybe the third or fourth that I tried, and the only one that worked! (And my husband doesn't read anything I write anymore. We both agreed that it was harmful for our relationship, even though his advice was good. LOL. I need to hear it from someone less close to me.)

Kasie West said...

Wow, how great that your husband could be so honest with you. It's that honesty that helps us grow.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Kasie, that is so funny. After you last comment on Natalie's blog, I went and looked up your blog too.

Ralene said...

My husband doesn't have any interest in reading what I write, but I have ocassionally forced him to read a chapter or a scene. He gives pretty good advice. :)

You know, I've seen your story go through a few rewrites, and I can't wait to read the final product!

LMJ said...

My husband is never interested in reading anything I write. He doesn't read much at all.

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