Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Second (and Clearer) Look

Writers often revisit their first books with the loving eyes of a conflicted parent. At once, the author has unconditional love for the book, yet after having two or three more he is not blind to the imperfections of his first effort. I read somewhere that a Noble Prize-winning writer once insisted on rewriting her first novel because it pained her to think of what she could do if given the chance to revise that first (in her eyes) mediocre effort. Similarly, I had a graduate professor who claimed to revise stories that appeared in the PARIS REVIEW simply because, years after publication, he knew he could do better.

The potential for e-publication has given me a reason to rewrite my first novel, and it has been an insightful and enjoyable process, to date.

CUT SHOT (Sleeping Bear Press, 2001) is my first Jack Austin PGA Tour mystery. I wrote the original draft when I was twenty-five or twenty-six; it was published four or five years later. As the Austin series progressed, so too did my proficiency, and I later grew to think of that first novel in terms of what it could have been. When the book went out of print in 2006, I thought the novel had met its final resting place. However, reading about J.A. Konrath’s electronic exploits and discovering the ease in which a novel may be uploaded on Kindle and the like, I’m taking the opportunity to go back in time, so to speak, and revise CUT SHOT. I’ve hired a graphic designer to create a new cover (never really liked the original one anyway) and plan to spend the next few months revising.

To date, 35 pages in, I have added one character and an ensuing subplot, punched up the tension in several scenes, and rewritten the opening chapter three times. One of the interesting things has been learning that despite departing from the Jack Austin series for three years, I am able to immediately step back into that first-person voice. I thought it might be difficult because I’ve written three different novel in the subsequent years, two in the third-person point of view and voice of a female and a first-person male P.I. An unexpected challenge, however, has been the tightrope walk that is making changes while honoring the integrity of the series. I am constantly torn by wanting to make a significant change that might add to the novel, but I do not, as I'm leery not to alter the cohesion of the series. CUT SHOT is not a stand-alone; it is the first book in a five-book (so far)series. Wholesale changes could alter details of character’s lives in subsequent books.

This is where I’m at this week. It’s not everyday a writer gets to go back and right his wrongs. The e-format has given both CUT SHOT and its author a second chance.


Rick Blechta said...

Musicians are never happy with anything, so being one, I also feel quite comfortable revising anything I've written. My feeling is that my prose certainly ain't deathless, because if it were, publishers would be beating a path to my door.

An e-book edition is certainly more than adequate reason to revisit past works, so good for you. I'm sure you'll be much more satisfied with the result.

Excuse me a moment, someone just rang the bell...

Wouldn't you know it? Some salesman trying to sell me a natural gas plan. I told him I'm already full up.

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