Rewrite territory

Deep in rewrite territory now, I’ve worked my way through about half of The Language of Bees. So now, instead of dithering around with plot lines dangling, or with plot lines starting up with no warning because I thought of them as I was writing, the thing approaches life as a sequential story. I’ll wrestle with it this week, here and in Detroit (please come and see me—and please, please tell me it’s not going to be snowing!) before sending it off to my editor, who at the moment is in London for the book fair, and I if I send it to her now I know she’ll try and read it on her Blackberry and she’ll go blind and it will be my fault. So I have to wait.

This stage of reshaping a book is, in a way, the preliminary rewrite, since I can’t see what it’s going to need in the way of pacing changes and added oompf until I have something complete to work with. At this point I’m looking at the way the characters and the plot intertwine, and making sure that 1) each character is crystal clear in my own mind and 2) I don’t just talk about them, I let the reader learn about them through their actions, words, and concerns.

In the course of this I realized that for a long section at the beginning Russell is alone, which is fine because she’s busy, but because it’s ninety percent internal, it makes for huge hunks of solid prose on the page. So when I came to weave in the suggestions of what was happening to Holmes during this time, I made all the new material—pages of it—dialogue. Not even Holmes said/ X said (nope, I’m not going to tell you who he’s talking to here,) no gestures, no description of where they are or what they’re doing, just one piece of conversation after another, with only a double asterisk on a line to indicate a shift in time.

And I like how it works. Not that it’s perfect (not that anything I write will ever be perfect…) and I’ll need to tinker with verbs and sentence structure to make sure there is never any problem with telling the two speakers apart, but it comes as a mild shock, after Russell’s ruminations broken only by short conversations, to have line after line inside quotation marks. And to use speech, particularly speech from a man as tightly controlled as Holmes, to provide insight into some enormous emotional and psychological changes, is… a challenge.

And THEN, to make the process invisible, so the reader just reads along, with a mild bump of surprise when s/he hits the dialogue sections, without thinking how damned clever this writer is to do that.

The aim of the rewrite is to provide the bumps, but make how they got there invisible.

Comments

  1. “Damned clever” is right! It’s such a treat to read through your process. I’m anxious and excited to see the results of your hard work.

  2. I’m coming to see you Wednesday, along with my twin.
    We had snow yesterday (flurries only – never reached the ground) but it’s supposed to be 68 to 70 degrees by Wednesday. Should be gorgeous! I hope your trip here is smooth and trouble free.

    I, too, am anxious to read the results! The more you discuss it, the more anxious I become.

  3. [please tell me it’s not going to be snowing!) ]

    Nope. See for yourself : http://www.weather.com/weather/tenday/USMI0229?from=search_10day Partly sunny with highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s at night. Although it’s supposed to flurry a bit here tonight, it should warm up by Wednesday. 🙂

    [And THEN, to make the process invisible, so the reader just reads along, with a mild bump of surprise when s/he hits the dialogue sections, without thinking how damned clever this writer is to do that. ]

    Hmm. Speaking of these sorts of moments, remind me to ask you about chapter 10 in GAME if we get to talk in Detroit. It has always fascinated me for just that reason–making the process invisible, that is.

  4. Real Icon says:

    It will be so gorgeous to compare your blogged comments about the writing process with your finished-polished-published book once it gets into my hands! To keep aware of the fact that any work of art – even the greatest – has not always existed, but been created, formed and changed in an often longsome, difficult and complex process is always hard to imagine, immensely irritating and fascinating.

    I’d love to join you in Detroit, but since the route planner instructs me to swim across both the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in order to get there, I guess you will have fun without me.

  5. Oh my. You have me chomping at the bit. The Language of Bees sounds delicious! I am nearly frenzied with anticipation.

    I hope you have a nice, safe–and snowless!-time in Detroit.

  6. I personaly want to wish you the best trip ever ( to Detroit) have a super time. Sure wish we could be there.
    Just waiting patiently for The Language of Bees to hit the markets.extremely enjoy all the mutterings.

  7. I am not even going to allow myself to imagine what “enormous emotional and psychological changes…” you might be writing into the Russell/Holmes story. Not gonna let it into my imagination…la la la la lalalalalalalaalalalalalalalalaalalala…! Can’t hear ya! LA LA LA LA LA LA LAA LAALALALALAAAA…..!!!!!

    Teresa

  8. I am finally able to say that I, too, love your mutterings and the peaks into your process. (WordPress went into my spam folder–so rude!–and delayed my username retrieval et al. Sigh.) I devour each Russell book the minute I get my hands on it, then listen to the recorded version to savor the language as I sew or drive. Of course I’ve read them more than once, and listen to them again and again when I long to immerse myself in the world you create in each volume. Or when the Aptos library has nothing on CD worth taking with me on my many trips to Modesto to care for my ailing mother.

  9. Teresa:

    You are so funny. 🙂

    [I am not even going to allow myself to imagine what “enormous emotional and psychological changes…” you might be writing into the Russell/Holmes story… LA LA LA LA LA LA LAA LAALALALALAAAA…..!!!!!]

    Those words are like a powder keg, aren’t they? The explosion of thought they caused in my little brain, despite my best efforts to NOT THINK ABOUT IT.

    As you wrote, “Not gonna let it into my imagination…la la la la … !”

  10. Please allow me to join the chorus .. . LA LA LA LA LA . . .

    What a teaser! And I can’t wait to see how the dialog bits work out. Of course, now I’m thinking I need to re-read all the Russells to see if/how the invisible bumps (which I’ll obviously have to look for very carefully) differ from one to the next, and why . . .

    How damned clever this writer is! 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing Laurie. It is interesting to see how you go through the motions of rewriting. I do hope there are some emotional and psychological changes that everyone else in on about. Ooo especially after Locked Rooms.

    Sorry I can’t make it to Detroit. I’m in the final stages of my dissertation…then the editing and what not. Boy I’d rather be doing fiction though. The numbers are about to make my head explode, but the end results…priceless. I’ve some interesting results, totally unexpected. We call it…the explosive dissertation full of surprises.

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