Monday, December 6, 2010

A new beginning

Literally. A new beginning.

Today, I rolled up my sleeves and completely rewrote the opening chapter to The Devil You Don't Know, which from now on shall be known as The Novel That Will Not Die.

A few months ago, I rewrote the entire ending. It got better. Much better. I've rewritten the middle so many times that I sometimes read it and don't recognize it as my work. (And I suppose that's not a bad thing.)

But the beginning has remained pretty much the same for three years, with only some minor tinkering here and there.

But that changed after my meeting last week with my second book editor. She, along with a couple of other readers, had commented that I was introducing too many characters all at once. I was, of course, but on purpose. The beginning was a series of short vignettes written as (gasp) a prologue. They set up the novel's premise and provided the inciting incident.

I opened up a new Word file and rewrote a new Chapter One from scratch after sketching it out in a notebook last night. No more prologue. No more character vignettes.

My wife, who has long been a champion of the old beginning, read the new one this evening and admitted she likes it much more than the original. That's a start.

I'm trying to get the book in shape for the Writer's Digest Conference in late January in New York City. I have reserved a spot and purchased my hotel room. All I'm missing is airline tickets. I have until Dec. 15 to change my mind and get nearly all of my money back -- if I chicken out.

I want to go. I want to take my manuscript and wave it under the noses of fifty of the top literary agents and editors in the world. I want to meet Janet Reid and Donald Maass. I really do. I want to hand them a business card, wink casually, and tell them to "call me."

Well, maybe not. But I want a chance to take this baby of mine to Gotham and go balls to the wall. One last shot, perhaps.

And so, I'm back at work on TDYDK. It was tough getting back inside the character's heads after all this time, especially since my new book is so different in tone, setting and voice. But once I did, it was like I'd never left it.

I was writing dialogue for Michael Reed like it was 2008 all over again. Whoo hoo. Who says you can't go back home?

I think I'm challenging myself with this because I've fallen victim myself to the writer's malaise that seems to be sweeping the Internet. From Natalie Whipple to Nathan Bransford, people are in flux. Formerly confident bloggers are opening up and letting the world see their insecurities and fears. Natalie, especially.

As a result, I love her as a writer even more now. She's just like I am!

But all of this soul-searching and insecurity -- for me, at least -- can be debilitating. I am a better writer, hell a better person, when I am moving forward. Like a shark. Because I'm always afraid that if I stop, I'll die.

So onward. Perhaps to New York. Anyone with me?


  1. I love new beginnings. Believe it or not I am really happy to hear that you are back to work on TDYDK. It's a great novel, it can only get better.

    So you're goin' to New York? I'm jealous and excited for you. I would so love to go, but I'm just not finished with that first draft yet. I have to finish my research paper on serial killers first.

    You sound as if you've been in much better spirits and I'm glad to see that Terry.

    I'm going to check out Natalie Whipple's blog now.

    Your pal...

  2. I am planning to rewrite most of my first novel now, but I want to wait until I complete my second. I even think that the second book works better as the first book in the series. It's just hard to know that it will be years still before I have a chance to be published.

  3. Got to New York. Meet the Shark. I double dog dare you. (See, now you HAVE to go.)

  4. Hey Terry,

    Glad to hear you're back working on the book. Hope to see you in New York!

  5. YAY!!!
    renewed fervor!!
    ride that all the way to NYC! :)

  6. Yay, Terry! And I don't personally know any writer who doesn't feel insecure and inadequate and all that other stuff.

    But slog through it. That's what separates the real writers from the hobbyists.

    And a lot of people get agents from meeting them face to face at conferences. A lot!

  7. Gina: Thanks. I'm a bit nervous myself. I do wish you could go. We have to meet sometime; we're too much alike not to be friends! And I'm really glad you are still working on that first draft. And, serial killers? Really? Sounds cool.

    Ted: Oh man, do I know. It continually amazes me how long a process this can be. Hang in there, buddy.

    Anne: Even though the Shark spit me out twice? I think I will avoid pitching her (unless, you know, I do. Gutless, I ain't). ;)

    Zac: Nice to see you here. It was your amazing critique at the conference in September that led me to rethink the beginning. Good advice. Thanks. And yes, I hope we meet again in NYC.

    Victoria: Ha. Thanks for the fervor!

    Cheryl: From your lips to God's ears. Seriously.

  8. Terry, you have to let me know when you're out here! I'm glad to see you not giving up!

  9. I've re-written my first novel until I can't see it anymore.

    I want to be with you in NY, yeah baby. I've been thinking very hard on the matter, trying to come up with the financing. I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun, and bring us back lots of insights :)

    I'd like to wink at Donald Maasse too.


  10. That? Is an EXCELLENT start. Im happy YOUR happy with the rewrite of the opening!