Killing my darlings softly with a blunderbuss

I began revising my second novel (noose) today for the umpteenth (thirteenth???) time and it seems (noooooo!) to be going pretty alright (FML). (Update: The novel is finished and weighs-in at 107,000 words.)

As a big boy, I haven’t cried or threatened to quit writing forever, or run naked into the street waving a blunderbuss loaded with black powder and Jolly Ranchers … and the cinnamon schnapps is still safe up in the booze cupboard. (I’m not fancy enough for a liquor cabinet.)

The suggestions made by the manuscript critiquing service I hired were most insightful and will go a long way in helping me improve this particular story—a historical adventure set in the antebellum North as well as parts of Western and Southern Africa.

Think Uncle Tom’s Cabin meets Treasure Island meets Little House on the Prairie meets The Jetsons meets Boogie Nights. OK, scratch those last three.

While I was impatient and shortsighted when I self-published two collections of humor essays and a book on religion and philosophy, I vowed to take it slow with my novels and do things the right way.

For me, that means crafting a solid story, finding an agent who believes in my vision, and landing a deal with a major publishing house … all without developing a crippling cocaine habit.

I started my fiction work seriously a few years ago when I wrote my first (unpublished) novel “A Clash of Wants” (terrible working title) which I call my practice novel.

After years of writing essays and editorials, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to stick with one subject for 80,000 words.

So, I set out to write this practice novel, which I did. It came in at 85,905 words, actually.

I don’t expect I’ll ever do anything with it … it’s pretty much a Stephen King-esque tale of a man who’s lost his faith and ends up chasing something evil across the country in hopes of saving mankind.

Sound familiar?

That first book actually turned out better than I expected.

Though I must confess that, after the second draft, I put the manuscript in a box and shoved it into the closet where it now rests comfortably some 206.1 miles away.

Once I’d proved to myself I could do the sticking-with-it of the thing, I got right to work on this second novel, the one which had been assembling itself in my mind over the course of a few years.

While waiting a few months before going back to revise for the first time, I wrote my third novel. Stephen King suggests something like six weeks or so but I’ve found that I like a good three or four months off from a book after I’ve written it. This has given me the opportunity to work on new projects while the completed works simmer.

Today, at lunchtime, I began work on the intro, of which my critique service stated, “The story begins with a narrative summary which reads like a dry historical lesson rather than focusing on (main character) and drawing the reader into her world. I would open with a stronger opening line/paragraph which pulls the reader in straight away and even using her full name in the first paragraph. Revealing the time in which the story is set is not as important as introducing the main character, and can be revealed organically as the story progresses.”

I agreed with his assessment and rewrote something I feel will accomplish what a good story should—draw the reader in.

The next task will be to decide what to do with the dream sequence in chapter two; something I feel is necessary and artfully done but more and more seems to be considered hacky, cliche and confusing.

I want my book to be the best it can be … but I don’t want to cut the dream sequence!

Alas, I hear harp music. That means I must get back to work on the newspaper.

My partner is going away on his honeymoon this week and I should probably work ahead a little just to be safe.

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