The Rewrite has Landed

It's quite remarkable what happens when you set out to revise a novel you first wrote years before. At least, it was remarkable to me. I wound up rewriting an absolute ton of the thing. About two years ago, I revised the Children of Midian, but I don't think my heart was really in it. I'd spent far too much time with the characters, having moved onto a second novel of a "planned" trilogy.

The first "final" draft had several problems. First, it was bloated. I can't say it any simpler than that. No matter what I did to the book, it only got longer. I seemed unable to murder my darlings.

I also discovered that the book wasn't quite as YA as I thought. A few agents provided me some excellent feedback on that very point. And so I learned the real difference between Young Adult and Middle Grade. I also found that neither Middle Grade nor YA are tidy little categories. Midian presented some darker themes than one might expect in a MG boy novel. Given the character ages, issues they faced, and some of the "dark matter", this was an upper middle grade novel. Go ahead. Try explaining that in a query letter.

The dawning realization that Midian was MG also led me back to my original problem. The book was already too long for a YA novel from an unpublished author. How was this going to work as Middle Grade fiction?

Novice that I was, I decided to split the first novel into two middle-grade-sized books. Big mistake. I had written one story, not two. Choosing a dividing point was like throwing a dart at a double-pane window. Don't get me wrong. I knew I needed to add a little something to make it "work". I wrote a new chapter to help augment the first half and to let it stand on its own. The end result? Two smaller halves, neither of which really stood on their own.

I wound up stitching it back together before leaving the book for dead a couple of years ago. Yet, the real problems remained. The plot was too confusing. The kids were melodramatic. Elliot--the protagonist--was sort of likable, but he was just kind of... meh. Above all, there was simply too much gunk--too much stuff I had been too stubborn to remove because I thought it was so neat and indispensable.

I picked it up a couple months ago and reread it. Though fairly horrified by large swaths of the what I'd written, I spotted what drew me to write the book in the first place. So, I decided to give revising it another shot.

I once asked my daughter, "What do you do when life hands you lemons?" She was probably eight at the time, but her answer lingers with me. "Suck on 'em." There would be much lemon-sucking, which completely explains the faces I pulled as I went through the process of rewriting the book.

The Peanuts cartoon atop this post is about where my head was at.  Here are random thoughts that swam in my brain during the process.

1. Get to the point already.
2. He's a total wuss. Can't have that. (about the protag)
3. Cute, but who cares? 
4. Kill it.
5. Did you forget you cut that scene? (upon finding references to aforementioned cut scene)
6. OMG - he/she is turning again. (characters kept turning to SEE things)
7. Great. That's the author, not the story and characters.
8. Hungry.
9. You suck. Whose idea was this?
10. Hey, look, the word-count is way down.

I'm on track for the planned release date on Smashwords to start - 1/21/2012


Michael Charney said...

Congratulations, Jay. I would add one more thing to your list:

11: I really, really love that; it's got to go.

M.A. Leslie said...

Can't wait to read it. Hands down, BTW, Urban Mythos was my favorite read of 2011. Maybe your next one will be my favorite 2012!
Keep it coming,

Jay said...

Sadly Michael - I'm never that confident.

And thank you Michael!