Rewriting and Writing New

As I mentioned earlier, back in 2016, I have resurrected a book I wrote in 2000 that both my agent and I loved. When Paige suggested I try revising it, I was skeptical, worried I would be unable to modernize the story. (Technology, which had a major influence on the plot, has changed radically in the past seventeen years.) Yet as I began revising, I realized that many of the changes, which required both rewriting and writing new, were quite simple. The two major revisions I made led to the introduction of two new characters, one for each revision. Those characters shifted a few other plot points, and it became apparent that both characters would play an important role in the last third of the book, which I already knew would need to be almost completely rewritten. The first two-thirds only required revision work, some minor, some (with these two new characters) major.

Changing technology—new ways to communicate, people reading newspapers online rather than buying paper versions, Facebook and other social media, ubiquitous smart phones that can take pictures—wasn’t what ultimately forced most of the revisions and the new material. Well, not entirely. I had to find my protagonist, Anne, a new job due to changes in the financial world—major revision number one—and that killed off Anne’s previous boss and required me to come up with a new one. That new boss needed a connection with the villain of the piece, which shifted some plot elements and gave rise to a new initial confrontation between Anne and the villain, which then required a different motivation for the villain to pursue and persecute Anne, who was now forced to find help in unexpected places … This replotting isn’t so much a domino effect as differently sized paving stones forcing me to shift an established path, thereby leading me in unanticipated directions.
With each step in a new direction, other subtle changes needed to be made. A by-the-book FBI agent becomes a computer nerd skilled in hacking. Anne’s new employer knows her family, and so a family member now appears.

The basic plot of the book has not changed—a woman who witnessed a crime goes into hiding, but then is forced to resurface. Yet I am excited and challenged by both the revisions and the need for the new material. Excited because I love the creative part of writing, bringing into existence something that was never there before. (Stephen Sondheim references this in his marvelous musical, Sunday in the Park with George, when Georges Seurat declares: “Look I made a hat, where there never was a hat.” And challenged because I need to take these new scenes—the new characters and plot elements—and work them into the existing structure of the book. So, rewriting and writing new.

I have about fifty pages of new material to write, which will bring me to the original ending of the book. And that, interestingly, doesn’t need to be changed at all. I hope that means I’ve done all of this right!

Still, it will be a while before Eye of the Blackbird is complete and available, so in the meantime, check out my other two books, Lost Mothers and Every New Beginning, available both in paperback and on Kindle.

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In which I blog about the days I write and the days I don’t write; about teaching about writing; about reading (which is never enough); and occasionally about music, because sometimes a three-minute song can tell as good a story as a novel.

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