Rewriting. Again.

by Lisa Rosen on September 28, 2011

Last week, a writer friend of mine, giving me feedback on the draft of my novel, announced–on page 123–that she was having trouble seeing the connection between plot line A and plot line B.

For a split second, I considered throwing my computer out the window and getting a job removing wallpaper (not that I’m any better at that–I just have a LOT of experience).

Instead, I listened carefully to what she was saying, and realized that she was just trying to help.

I wrote plot line B first, actually–it’s what I consider to be the core of the story:  a young woman is in labor with her first child.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.  That doesn’t really sound like a novel.  So I went back to the beginning, and added plot line A:  that young woman feels like her (dysfunctional) family of origin is falling apart, and she’s trying desperately to hold them together, because she thinks she has to.

My friend’s comment makes a lot of sense, when I think about it.  The reader needs to understand what the labor/delivery have to do with the awkward family dynamics.  I’ve been mulling that over for days now, and I think I’ve just about figured it out.

So today’s challenge is–rewrite the first three pages of the novel, for what seems like the 467th time.

Because here’s what I’ve learned:  those first three pages are really, really, REALLY important.

Take, for instance, the novel I started reading last night, The Taker, by Alma Katsu.  In the first three pages, we learn that the main character is a doctor in a cold, desolate rural area, and is desperate to leave.  We seen him driving to work, contemplating how much hates the small town, the weather, the feeling that he’s trapped in his hometown.  Watching him think about all this, we also realize that it’s his profound sense of connection to the place that’s keeping him there.

That’s a lot of big picture scene-setting to stuff into three pages.  But it works–I’m totally drawn in.  It’s atmospheric and lyrical and more than a little creepy.  I’m already totally invested in this character and his life.  And all he’s doing is driving to work.

What’s the old adage?  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.  So I’m going back to the beginning, to try again.

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Frances Hill September 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Hmmm. Well, if you ever need a fresh set of eyes, just call. I am not in a writer’s group, obviously, but I do like to read. A different perspective might not hurt, especially if these same people have been hashing and rehashing this out with you. Plus, I’m your sister so you can make snide comments back at me without fear of coming off as if you can’t take constructive criticism. : )

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Lisa Rosen September 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Thank you Frances. I’ll probably take you up on that soon–but only if you promise to be brutal! (Yes, I know. That won’t be difficult 🙂

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Amelia September 29, 2011 at 9:03 am

I thought about you when I read this blog.
http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-are-your-favorite-books.html
Don’t know if you’ve heard of her blog, but it’s come in handy with my upcoming trip to the City.

Reply

Lisa Rosen September 29, 2011 at 10:41 am

Excellent, Amelia. Thanks for the tip.

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