Evolution of the Novel Part 3

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For the past 3 weeks I’ve been posting on the evolution of voice and genre, as shown in the WIP, written (and still being rewritten) by Tiffany (Tiff), a writer I have been working with for 2 or 3 years. With Tiff’s permission, I told her story and how she found a narrator’s voice and a character’s voice that was uniquely hers.

What she started out with was the voice and story-opening of a Regency Romance. But by the end of the book, that voice had changed and evolved into something darker, richer, and the character more … powerful and sympathetic, someone to cheer for.

So you don’t have to go back and look it up, this week we are showing her original first page and her first page rewrite, without my comments. (If you want to see those, you’ll have to backtrack). This lets you read straight through and let the changes strike you as they did me   Then, we’ll share the *new* first page. The changes in the final are subtle, (and she will likely make more before she sends this to an agent) but I think you will agree the changes make a huge difference to the reader’s perceptions of the story, character, voice, tone and genre. Tiff’s work has begun to sparkle like a diamond.

Original Chapter One

The diamond necklace glittered in the flickering light from the fireplace, the warmth in the room failing to thaw the coldness in my heart.

“My Lady, do you wish to reply to My Lord’s request?” Jameson, the butler, stood inside the doorway, unease in his countenance.

Under other circumstances, this necklace would elicit gasps of delight and lead to a pleasant time in the marriage bed; security and affection translated into reality by my husband, Lord Richmond,  in the bed beside me. But the gesture, like so many from my husband now, reeked of expectation -devoid of the warmth, the caring, the tenderness so characteristic of our  early marriage. 

He didn’t even give me the gift himself. We were so estranged, separated like opposite poles, that a servant handed me the wrapped box on Christmas Eve. I held the sparkling gems in my hand, allowed the cool stones to cascade through my fingers, and wept. Wept for all the disillusions of a society wife thinking she married for love, that her marriage would be different from all the rest. Wept when I realized I was wrong, that I misjudged the character of the man I married.

Despair coursed through my body, limbs trembling to act on my distress, not cower in the corner like so many frightened wives.  I threw the necklace into the fire, the smack of the stones on the hearth more satisfying than the gasp from the maid and Jameson’s shocked face.  I straightened my spine, turning from the hearth.

(As I said on part one: This reads like a Regency romance from the first word to the last. It reads like a love story where the two principle characters are in love, are driven apart, and then make it back together at the end after facing some obstacle.)

First Revised Chapter One

The diamond necklace glittered in the flickering light from the fireplace, the warmth in the room failing to thaw the coldness in my heart.

“My Lady, do you wish to reply to My Lord’s request?” Jameson, the butler, stood inside the doorway, shifting from foot to foot.

I clenched the stones in my fist, the hard facets digging into  the tender skin of my palm. Blue light, magic light , flared from my fingertips. Hunching over, I hid the traitorous light from view.

Had they seen? I glanced behind me. Jameson remained by the door, while Mary, the maid, bustled about the room. I warred with my power, forcing it into submission, willing the blue light to ebb back into my skin. Rage threatened my tenuous control over my magic.

Damn him for humiliating me by inviting his mistress into our home.

Damn him for his betrayal of my trust.

Curse him for valuing me so little that a servant gave me his gift. The extravagant necklace I held in my hand.

My limbs trembled, power quickening with my anger, roiling like lava under my skin, waiting to explode with the first sign of a crack in my control. Fearing another flare of power, I threw the necklace into the fire, the smack of stones on the hearth more satisfying than the gasp from the maid or the shocked look upon Jameson’s face. I straightened, the pressure relieved, my power appeased with my show of violence.

This is much better, but it still tells and not shows in the last paragraph. It also still contains a few vestiges of the Regency Romance tone.

Current Chapter One (most recent revision)

I clenched the diamond necklace in my fist, the hard facets digging into the tender skin of my palm. Blue light, magic light, flared from my fingertips. Hunching over, I hid the traitorous light from view.

“My Lady, do you wish to reply to My Lord’s request?” Jameson, the butler, stood inside the doorway, shifting from foot to foot.

Had they seen? I glanced behind me. Jameson remained by the door, while Mary, the maid, bustled about the room. I warred with my power and my anger, forcing them into submission, willing the blue light to ebb back into my skin. Rage threatened my tenuous control over my magic.

Damn him for humiliating me by inviting his mistress into our home.

Damn him for his betrayal of my trust.

Curse him for valuing me so little that a servant gave me his gift. The extravagant necklace I held.

My breath shuddered, limbs trembled, as power quickened with my anger, roiling like lava under my skin, waiting to explode with the first crack in my control. Fearing another flare of power that might give me away, I wrenched back my arm. Threw the necklace into the fire. Releasing the buildup of my magic into the fire itself. The smack of stones on the hearth, the bright flare in the fireplace as flames billowed out and died back, was more satisfying than the maid’s startled cry or the shocked look upon Jameson’s face. I straightened, gasping, the pressure relieved, my power appeased with the act of violence.

The last version is dang near ready to be seen by an agent. Tiff will still need to read through and spot places where she told and instead of showed. Then, a quick line-edit, and the agent will have it in her hands…

And the process starts all over again…rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!
Faith
FaithHunter.Net

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15 comments to Evolution of the Novel Part 3

  • This is much stronger. Couple of editorial thoughts for what they’re worth:

    “light” is over used. Find a synonym.

    “Damn him” gave me pause because I initially thought the “him” was the butler. And why 2 “damns” then “curse”? Wouldn’t 3 “damns” be better?

    Some unnecessary sentence fragments in the last paragraph. The first “Threw…” you might get away with, but the next “Releasing…” just feels wrong to me.

    Just my two cents :)

  • Emily

    This example of transformation is great! It really shows how editing and changes make a difference and it moves from one voice to another, one genre to another. Thanks for posting this, and thanks to Tiff for sharing this with us!

  • AJ, it’s a work in progress. Tiff is still on the next to last rewrite. And I agree what you said. I know Tiff will see this and take another look at it. However, for action and high-emotion secquences, I happen to *like* fragments. they display (show, not tell) what the charater is experiencing.

    I remember the first rewrites of my first published novel. I thougth it would NEVER end! ANd now, 20 years later, I can’t stand it because it is so…um…bad. It needs a total rewrite. (laughing)

    Emily, Tiff was a brave girl, and I am so excited to see (and show) the dramatic changes in her style and ability. Yes, this will go to my agent when Tiff is ready. FIngers crossed!

  • Fair enough. Just to be clear, I’m not objecting to the use of fragments per se, and I totally agree that they are invaluable for suggesting voice and action. My concern in this case (the “Releasing…” one) is that beginning a fragment with a verb makes it feel like an adverbial phrase (“Releasing the door handle, I stepped inside”) if you don’t already know where the sentence is heading. A reader who makes that error then has to double back to understand the grammatical function of “releasing,” thereby disrupting the speed of the passage (which was why the fragment was there in the first place). Pedantic, moi?

  • AH! Now I understand, AJ. Very good point. Did not catch that. Thanks.

    And another thanks, for the comment on David’s Monday post about metric junkie. I signed up and am following my books on amazon. I jsut wish I’d had it when my my last book came out.

  • The improvement from version one to version three is remarkable. Tiff is to be commended for sticking to it and being open to the changes you and she talked about. That’s one of those things that writers can be slow to learn — I know I was. The fact that she has been able to listen to a critique and rework the piece so effectively bodes well for her professional development; it also speaks well to your mentoring. Kudos to you both.

  • Thanks David. I love working with writers, and if I didn’t write books, I’d be a developmental editor. But one big dream per lifetime…

  • Tiffany

    Thank you, everyone, for the comments. I love seeing people start to focus in on minute line changes, debate the total ebb and flow of the words on the page, because this says to me, as a writer, that the big stuff – character, voice, setting, etc. is working in the piece to tell my story. I’d also like to thank Faith in this public forum for her invaluable assistance, insight, and support. I don’t know if I would have kept tinkering with the story without her kind words of encouragement. I only hope the final rewrites live up to the first 30 pages. Thanks, everyone!

  • Squeak

    Good luck Tiff and thanks for sharing :). The latest rewrite grabs attention right off and I already like the protagonist better.

  • Squeak, I am with you. She is harder, braver, tougher, and has secrets I want to know…

  • What a difference!

    And what a different powerful writing can make when coupled with a skilled reading partner to help point that power in the right direction.

    It’s hard work, but the value in the payoff is beyond measure.

  • Tiffany

    Thanks, Squeak! Maybe there will be a blog post someday about how a novel CAN be rewritten more than 50 times *grin* and still seem fresh:)

  • John, If could clone myself, it what I’d do all the time….

  • I think the first paragraph of this third version is so much stronger – it is tighter; the tension is not weighed down by extra words. This version makes me want to read more.

    (For what it’s worth, I agree with AJ – I think three “damn”s in a row would have more resonance).

    This has been an amazing and fascinating transformation. I wish you great success with it!