Friday, May 6, 2011

Starting draft 5, struggling with opening

It's been an eventful week. My wife read the complete book, as I wrote about earlier, and my new writing group had its first meeting. I'll write about the mechanics and the vibe of that some other time, but it was really really nice to talk seriously about our work together.

The important thing for now is that they read and commented on the first 20 pages. As it happens, those were positioned as Ch. 1 and Ch. 2 when I gave it to them and as Preface and Ch. 1 when I gave them to my wife. I've talked about my trouble getting the story started, and unfortunately this experiment showed no difference in that positioning. Both versions read with the same "start/re-start" problems.

So this morning -- the official beginning of my work on draft 5 -- I've been trying to tackle that, and it's not going great. First, I tried just cutting the preface to do without it. (I start another "experiment" doc in these cases and when I settle on something paste the result back into my main doc. ) That idea was no good, because there's stuff in the preface I really need. I tried changing where in the timeline of the story the preface event happens -- so it's during the present action and basically the second or third major episode instead of prefatory in tone or placement. That creates a bunch of other problems, though. I tried cutting it but blending in the stuff I didn't want to lose as exposition in pieces, but that takes us out of scene too much in the Chapter 1/present action.

Finally, I tried just swapping the preface (which, if I haven't made this clear, takes place two years before the main story) with Chapter 1. So the preface is called Chapter 2 and is basically an extended interruption/flashback from Chapter 1. Then there's a hard chapter break and we resume the story back in the present with Chapter 3, f.k.a. Ch. 2.

Described that way, it sounds awful, but so far that looks like the best solution. It's certainly the most intelligible. I'm going to let it sit and see if I can get feedback from my wife on it. I really only did a patch job, so if I go with this, it will require some a lot of revision to straighten out detail consistency and redundancies.

If this doesn't work, then what I'll need to do is not just rewrite the opening but completely re-envision it -- not a job I'm anxious to do. If my students could see me now, they'd be getting a chuckle, because it looks like I'm evading the kind of hard work that I've been haranguing them to do.

I have a feeling this is mostly going to be set to stew over the rest of the weekend without much actual work. That's OK. I need some more distance on it before really tackling the next draft. I just wish I was able to work on two novels at once so I could keep myself busy with the time I have.

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