Thursday, January 27, 2022

Same story, told differently

Four years ago, I finished my Peyton Cote contract, the publisher was in trouble, and it felt like time to turn the proverbial page. I told my agent I wanted to get back to writing a male protagonist, to writing something I knew, something that wouldn’t require copious amounts of research into the world in which the books were set.

My first five books are set on the PGA Tour –– fun research, but lots of it, nonetheless; my most recent three books are set in the world of the U.S. Border Patrol, a tight-lipped agency, where research is tough to come by, and my “ride-alongs” were acquired playing pick-up hockey with a group of agents, are now banned, and, frankly, probably illegal.

So I turned to what I knew and created a world set at a New England boarding school, a world we see through the eyes of an English teacher, who says his “nose is a little too crooked, his tie a little too low” to truly fit in. Bo Whitney is an outsider in an insider’s world.

I wrote a book featuring him four years ago. The plot was a good one, I thought, but it got complicated and got away from me. I rewrote the book, changing the point of view from first to multiple third, bringing in more characters, and veered off course. I still liked the plot, still believed there was something in that story that was compelling. So about a year ago, I went back at it –– same character, same plot, but first-person, much tighter, much more direct. Now I’ve got a finished draft, whittled down from 100,000 words in the first version to 65,000 now. Same story, told differently.

So we’ll see what happens. I’m combing through it one more time, then sending it to my former English teacher, a man who taught at a boarding school while reviewing crime novels for Publisher’s Weekly for years to get his two cents, before sending it to my agent.

Insanity, we’ve all heard, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different outcomes. Maybe that’s what this is: believing in a plot so much that you’re willing to write the same book three times, three different ways. Maybe it’s blind faith.

Or maybe it’s simply the writing life, the one we’ve chosen.


Sybil Johnson said...

The first book I had published was one I rewrote and rewrote a number of times until it got to the place where it was publishable. I don't regret staying with it.

Anna said...

"Three different ways" is miles and ages away from "the same thing over and over." Insanity not proven.