Tag Archives: restructuring a novel

Is the Baby Still in the Bathtub?

I heard once at a writing seminar that every time we read, it’s an investment in our writing. So in light of that, we shouldn’t feel guilty when we spend our time reading someone else’s writing instead of working on our own.

When I do read someone else’s story, on one level of consciousness I’m processing how they’ve approached its construction and shaped its language, which helps me likewise reflect on my own projects. I still lose myself in the experience of the book, yet today was one of those when I did snap out of someone else’s story-world to reenter my own—because it had just smacked me upside the head, somewhere in the middle of the book I was reading, that I needed to work more on the beginning of the book I am writing. Seemingly out of nowhere, but I think my subconscious has known all along and something I read must have finally dislodged that. Not merely the revelation of what I probably need to do, but my acceptance of it. I think I’ve known for a long while what I should do but have been nurturing my precious poopsies, running the warm water over them and adding more bubble bath.

I’ve only done some cursory restructuring so far, but looks like my manuscript needs to be run like a conveyor belt in reverse again, backing it up another couple chapters to start at even later one. If I do this, I must be mindful of what had happened last time and ensure the babies of characterization and exposition don’t get thrown out with the bath water in the interest of moving plot forward a bit faster. And it really isn’t so much that I’m trying to get a move-on with the story line; the more I look at those opening chapters, the more I realize that I was still finding my way into the story with them; it doesn’t all have to be scratched, but it needs to be tightened through rearranging. So as I try to look at the story elements in those chapters more strategically right now—isolating the “need to haves” from the “nice to haves”—it’s like they’re all lined up before me, beads of sweat glistening at their brows and sweaty palms wringing behind their backs as they try to stand tall, stand proud with chins up but lips quivering, and some surely wetting their pants.

I shall place the little dears in the foster care of my archives and keep faith they’ll find a good home in a short story or other novel some day. Until that time of weaning, I’m letting them push their little rubber duckies through the suds, scrubbing them extra clean behind the ears before tucking them into bed for the night all clean and sweet-smelling and raisin-fingered…who knows, perhaps after I sleep on it, too, I’ll change my mind.

I’m curious to hear about YOUR babies—it’s inevitable that some of them get chucked out the window, but have you actually had success reusing them elsewhere? How so?

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