The Evolution of the Novel, Part two

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Last week, in part one, I discussed the evolution of voice in the work of one of my protégées, Tiff. With her permission, I told her story and how she found a narrator’s voice and a character’s voice that was uniquely hers. But as her story worked its way out on paper (computer files, I know), the character and story and voice began to separate and go their different ways. What she ended up with was the voice and story opening of a Regency Romance. She still had that lovely voice, but something was wrong. That voice no longer matched the story itself which had grown darker, richer, and the character more … violent and powerful.

I read (and reread) the first 30 pages and we talked about the story on the phone. The reason the novel *felt* weird? It was *not* a Regency at all! In fact, the romantic element had fizzled out in the storyline. It had become a story about magic, dark and violent and intense, that just happened to be set in London in the Regency period.

I suggested that she rewrite the first 30 pages, writing the book as she now envisioned it. She did, and is now rewriting the entire novel. Her excitement is contagious and I cannot wait to see what she does with the novel.

Part two of Evolution of the Novel is in three parts:

1.) The original first page, the things that Tiff and I discussed, and my comments in brackets [ ]s, after each para.

2.) Tiff’s second try. It is much better. MUCH! The new first page will appear, without my comments, so that you may the changes she made.

3.) Then below that, the new work appears again, with my comments in brackets [ ]s.

Please understand that I was never trying to condemn her writing at any stage, but show her what word choice and organization of paragraphs did to the piece. Hoping that she would be set free to write the book she wanted.

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. [Opening a story with jewelry makes it romance. Add in flickering light and a ticked off female voice, it *screams* romance.]

             “My Lady, do you wish to reply to My Lord’s request?” Jameson, the butler, stood inside the doorway, unease in his countenance. [Butler makes it Romance, and dialogue makes it Regency.]

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.  [Romance, romance, romance.]

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. [So much about this para is not right for today’s market. Mostly, the weeping part. The character comes across as weak, whiny, paralyzed, useless, sad, feeble, puny… Today’s market wants striking, strong females. And… Still no mention of magic…]

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. [Character is a weak, whiny bitch. And stupid. Sell the freaking necklace, keep the money, and divorce the hubby or take a lover yourself if culture disallows divorce. And…Where’s the magic??? ]


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.


Revised Chapter One [with my comments]

The diamond necklace glittered in the flickering light from the fireplace, the warmth in the room failing to thaw the coldness in my heart. [Opening a story with jewelry still makes it romance. It may not be a romance any longer, but when the first words are about jewelry it *feels* like romance to the reader. Add in flickering light and a ticked off female voice, it *screams* romance.]

             “My Lady, do you wish to reply to My Lord’s request?” Jameson, the butler, stood inside the doorway, shifting from foot to foot. [Butler still screams romance. His dialogue sets it as Regency Romance.]

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. [Ah! The first mention of *magic*. Magic that is out of control and governed by the character’s emotions, which are anger not weeping! Yea!!! It should have been in the first paragraph to tell the reader what kind of work this is. But, *oh my,* I like the blue light and her fear!]

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. [Oh yes! Better! I like!]

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. [Yes yes yes!!!!]

Much better! This could go to an agent as it appears now, it show that much promise… But wait till you see what she did with it next week! Only a few changes, but sooo much better. And yes, an agent needs to see it. The moment it is finished.

Faith
FaithHunter.Net
GwenHunter.Com

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14 comments to The Evolution of the Novel, Part two

  • Yes! The newer version intrigues. It’s full of mystery — it poses as many questions as it answers, drawing us in. What is this magic she wields? What will happen to her if it’s discovered? What will she do with this anger coursing through her? Can’t wait to see where she takes it next. I love this series of posts.

  • David, I have so enjoyed working with Tiffany, as her style evolves and matures. Shs is growing as a writer so very quickly, and finding a place in the commercial market is looking more and more likely.

  • Funny thing, I wouldn’t automatically say, “romance” when reading that opening…unless it was in the romance section and had a buxom blonde in a low cut dress and a muscle-bound “I can’t believe it’s not butter” (heretofore known as ICBINB) guy with six-pack abs and a smoldering look in his eye on the cover. Oh, do I hate those covers. Those covers, above anything else, will make me pass a book up, but I digress. I would also have been pulled in by wondering what was wrong and whether she was going to start out as a weak woman and grow to be strong and independent (I kind of like books where the character starts off as weaker and grows and develops over the course of the story).

    I’d have to agree that the magic would have to be mentioned in the beginning, unless it was one of those things where she didn’t know she had power until it manifests, maybe because of what’s going on in her life.

    In both versions I still don’t know what to expect as to the setting. She could walk out the door and I’d learn that it’s a completely different world, fantasy realm, tudor caste sci-fi world, 18th century Earth, etc.

    However, the third and fourth paragraph of the first version does strike me as very “romance.” I’d probably be going, “is this a kissing book? (couldn’t help the Princess Bride reference) Did I just get tricked into reading a historical romance?”

    I am a bit intrigued by both versions and I think my wife would be interested in the second version. Let us know if she gets picked up. Your mention that the above work is agent worthy now gives me even more positive feelings for my own work.

  • Second version is infinitely stronger. In all honesty, there’s no way I would have kept reading version 1. That’s partly a matter of taste (I’m not a romance reader), but also because the second version feels paradoxically more real–in spite of the magic–than the first version which seems strung together from literary conventions. In other words, I can believe in the character only in the 2nd version.

  • Daniel, I agree that some women would have kept reading version one, but not when it turned into fantasy by page 30. I just encouraged Tiff to write the book of her heart. And the final version — while the changes are minimal — is strikingly different, strong, and with a definate bait and hook to them forces me to keep reading. The work is mature and commercial and vibrant.

    AJ, I totally agree. The character she was writing was very popular in the 80s and 90s, the weak woman who became the strong woman and seduced her wandering hubby and saved her failing marriage in the process. The character Tiff was writing and the person that she — deep-down — wanted to write, were two very differnt characters. All I had to do was point out that the one she wanted to write was much more commercial and more likely to sell, and she felt free to redo the book with the darker character appearing from the beginning. I gave her some key points in the first 30 pages to make drastic changes, and I cannot wait to see the final result.
    GO TIFF!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this with us Faith (and Tiff!) it really gives a clear view of not only the evolution of a novel/character/plot, but also helps for us to see the process WIPS have to go through during their manifestation as what it is/was meant to be!

    Great post, great idea, thanks so much!

  • Thank you Hinny! I’ve seldom seen such a change at such fast speed. I keep saying that Tiff has been set free, (overuse of a phrase, I know) but that is exactly what it feels like.

  • LOL. I get it. I just had such a freeing experience recently, as well. I think that is why I related to the post so well. It’s always amazing when you see the pieces of your work finally start to show you the picture. A homage to all of the hard work she put in no doubt. 😀

  • Good for you, Hinny! Isn’t that exciting??? And the weird thing is that I just went through the same thing with my WIP — Mercy Blade — and it is so much fun fixing it!

  • Tiffany

    Thanks for all the kind comments. I hope this is helpful for any novice writer struggling with the same issues.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Faith (and Tiff). It’s hard to put words out in the open when you know they’ve been revised into something that works, and infinitely more difficult to post something old that is flawed.

    What bothered me most about the first opening wasn’t the lack of magic, but the preachy, telling of the MC to get the situation across. I would rather see her problem in a scene with some thoughts to heighten or explain the intricacies, than listen to her drone on in her head about the failings of her and society.

    The second version works for many reasons that have been stated above, including the prevalent magic, the stronger character, the situational mystery, but mostly because of the passion in the prose. You can feel her anger in the chose of words.

    I introduce my character’s darksight in the second paragraph of my novel, but it’s more of an ability than blatant magic. I’m hoping that’s still enough to show the fantastical element.

    One last thing, congrats on the French language rights for Skinwalker!

  • Tiff, I thank you SO MUCH for letting me use your work to show in *Evolution.* Seeing teh changes, seeing *why* things didn’t work and then start to work, is always a good thing.

    NGDave, First, thank you for the kind words. Skinwalker is selling in the EU briskly right now. MIRA had world rights to the AKA’s work, so while the AKA sold in 20 something countries, I never got to be part of it. There is such an excitement in the foreign sales!!!! I am doing girly squeals all the time!

    Second, it *is* so much easier to *see* a first draft, and the reasons should change. Then see the next draft, with comments, and finally the last one. The AKA’s first editor at Pocket Books, Jane Chelius, was great at teaching in her edits. I learned a lot from her. (She is an agent now, and a good one, repping romance and mystery.)

  • This is fascinating! I can’t wait to read the next installment. My thanks to you both for such great posts.