Monday, September 17, 2012

Rewrite Me

So I've picked up my novelist hat and placed it on my head. Admittedly, its a bit tight. And it smells funny.

Since my dad died in 2009 I've made multiple attempts to get comfy in my writer's hat with limited success. Coupling the tragedy of losing my Dad to the monster of emphysema, my first born graduated the same week Dad died, and my key coworker walked off the job right before a massive audit where I work. The audit process lasted over a year and at the time, my first novel had only been in print for less than six months. I basically lost my groove and to be brutally honest - I've been fearful of the 'regroovenation' process.

In 2009 for Nanowrimo I wrote a rough draft of a novel entitled Condor. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, Nanowrimo is "National Novel Writing Month" wherein every November people determine themselves to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I'm not sure how I completed Nano in 2009. For at least a week of November my entire home was torn apart while we had new windows installed and our home releveled, but I did it. And then I tabled the first draft mess and only visit it once in a while to see if its still on my hard drive.

The truth is, my soul was shredded by so many things while I was grieving for dad, and attempting to manage stressors at my place of employment. It is possible that Ava, the protagonist in my writhing mess of a draft has been infused with that sludge. Its possible that I allowed myself to emotionally regurgitate all my pain and angst and personify it. Or maybe I just wrote blind for thirty days. Whatever the case, I have a rough draft on my hands now and a complex main character that is begging to have her story told. Not neccessarily for the shock value of her life in the span from child to young woman but because of the last line I typed in the draft "My name is Freedom." If the protag, with all her quirks and flaws were just another salient bottom feeder with no resolution - she'd remain in my hard drive. But she isn't. Ava carries the resolution we all seek. She comes up for air. And that - if nothing else is a powerful lesson for all. My issue therefore is with certain stopsalong her journey. Some are implausible and will be rewritten or cut completely. Some are offensive and will have to be weighed for impact. And a few are solid, relatable situations.

When I wrote my first book, I was quite fond of my main character. She was the little girl I never had and I wrote her and her friends close to my heart. Ava is different. She came as she was. She is who she is. She is multiracial. She is a seeker. She has some deep emotional scars. She has seen the worst in people and her choices are not always healthy for her, or those around her. She is socially inept. To put it simply. Ava is "broken" - I wouldn't hazard a guess at her specific diagnosis - but she is definitely damaged and its obvious to me by her behavior throughout the book.

Ava often dreams she is a condor - engaging in behaviors that are natural to condors but not to humans and this is only one area where the disturbing will probably remain.

The story line also touches on other incendiary topics like rape, abortion, child abuse, wichcraft, racism, women as "property" demonic influences on a person, death, human sacrifice and resurrection, and bullying. All in 50,000 words.

I firmly believe that if you're going to write "Good" you can't be afraid of writing "bad" and there are entire pages in Condor that are just plain bad. There's this car crash, its just bad. It may need to go. But then there are other moments where Ava gets a glimpse of who she really is - that are poignant and beautiful. Its not a love story by any stretch. But its not a horror story either and is my current focus. Ava's life is brutal, but a lot of us have experienced the things that she experiences.

Three years ago there was so much going on in my life that reading through Condor after the first draft just made my heart sick. Now? I have enough distance between me and my tragedies that I can work to bring order to the chaos. I hope. I have deep empathy for Ava, but she is not "me" and that will be important I think during the editing process, perhaps to let her do what she does without attempting to whitewash her to fit MY values.

So that's a bit of rambling backstory for you. I am not yet sure if I will post much of the actual story or if I will simply send the manuscript to some friends when its closer to completion. I hope to have the rough draft through its first edit by first of November but I'm not going to pressure myself. First perhaps, I'll take my musty little writers hat and air it out.

Peace

3 comments:

Bill the Butcher said...

I'd certainly like to read your book...the way you describe it, your Ava is a real character, a human being with flaws and desires. That is the kind of character I truly like. It's also the kind of character who has a life of his or her own, and I strongly suggest you don't do anything to drastically change what you wrote. She might lose her humanity then.

Hrishikesh Bawa said...

>:D<
The things we read/write are either what we are or what we want to be. so write away..

I have a thing about the 50K word limit.. I like the author to weave a nice long web of story arcs. It need not necessarily be a puzzle.. but I like there to be nice long descriptions as they pour their heart out.

TL Boehm said...

Thank you, Bill. I may need a couple of Beta readers in a few months. Drastic change would change the story. I think during the edit - some things will be clarified so that even though they may be "not pretty" they will make more sense within the story - Basically what goes on within Ava's head and between her antagonist will not change but some of the peripheral situations may be scrapped, polished etc.
Santulan the 50k was a minimum - just for Nanowrimo. I don't have a word target for this novel. I'm just going to finish it - make it continuous and not even worry about word count.