Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blog the 15th: How I Almost Ruined My Novel But Saved It Again

I almost ruined my novel last night.  Almost threw it away.

I was convinced it was crap.   That I needed to write a new novel.   That I had to start completely over from scratch.

Luckily, I was wrong.  See, I'd made several mistakes.  The first one was very simple:  While I've typed the first half and have handwritten the second half and technically have "finished the first draft", I haven't typed and printed out the first draft in its entiretyBecause of this, I committed a very simple error:  I started thinking too much about all the changes I needed to make before I had actually gone ahead and typed out the rest of my handwritten pages.  Once I started doing that again this morning, I got right back into the groove again, and everything was golden.

I made another mistake, however.  Also very simple.

I'd forgotten what my novel was all about.

I have Bob Ford (for recommending this read to me) and Robert McCammon to thank for reminding me.  See, "Boy's Life" is perhaps one of the most astounding reads I've ever picked up.  What gets me so much about it - a trend I've noticed in my reading preferences - is that while there's a plot thread running in the background, that plot is almost not important.  What the novel is about - LIFE, SUMMER, BEING A BOY - is the most important thing.

See, as I've grown older, great fiction has become much less about the novel's plot, and so much more about the quality of prose, and the novel's core themes.  And, that's what I want to write.

I'd gotten distracted by novel's plot, and forgotten what it was all about.  I'd let myself get tied up in building this epic tale with cosmic consequences and this huge, important PLOT...and forgot what the novel was supposed to be about in the first place:

Love.  A father's love for his son.  A boy's love for his Daddy.  The love that exists only between boyhood friends. 

Compared to that, my plot doesn't really matter.  Should be secondary.  However, I'd allowed the plot to get too important, too big, until last night I realized that I was writing an epic, bloated, cliched adventure like hundreds of others on the bookshelves.  My plot was brimming with definable symbols and meaning, was too structured to an end point that could be explained and summarized too easily.

So, I did the best thing I could.  I shoved the plot aside, and remembered why I'd started writing this thing in the first place: LOVE.

I'm back.  My novel's alive.  But this requires sacrifice.  That sacrifce?

Say goodbye to the midlist deal.  Because I know this novel won't fly with the midlist publisher I was going to pitch it to.  So, no advance.  No wider distribution.   

But that's okay.  Because this will be MY story.  Mine.  And it will be about what I want it to be, and that will be enough.