I’ve recently dusted off the first novel I ever worked and reworked and then reworked and then, okay so it wasn’t that dusty. Each time I’ve worked on it I see that I have managed to practice a different aspect of writing and I have also been able to see more flaws, then other flaws that I added over the years to a simple clear story to try to make it more interesting and more marketable and catchy.
Anyway, my current observations of this great work are simple and it is simple advice that I am passing on to some, though not all, first time novelists. Buried deep in my novel, I see, is the need to take my reader on a journey, not of the spirit or the soul, or life, but a damn journey through Ireland, where part of the story is set, and where I had some interesting experiences as a teenager.
I am seeing now that my travelogue has been getting in the way of the story. I have my protagonist go just about everywhere, for no apparent reason, and in fact, no apparent reason is admitted by the characters in the process of his goings and comings. It added pages to my book, but not really much else. There was nothing enlightening or even worthy of mentioning about my protagonists growth and character development in his observations of things like the horse races, a nightclub, a pub here, another pub there.
I can see what I was trying to do with those first attempts, and not only did I write them but they are full of detail. But why? Who cares about the colour or texture of the barmaid’s hair if it has absolutely nothing to do with the story? Save it for another time.
Which leads to my next point. When we first set out to tell our story, and record all of the interesting experiences we think we have had in our lives, we not only do it but we go into great detail. Slowly we get earthbound and the wings that had carried us aloft to our simple goal, are now weighing us down with side trips to god knows where and then full of cumbersome detail of brand names, sizes, and styles when the word “shoe” might be perfect.
So if you find your story is not really getting off the ground, you might have to be slightly ruthless in the cutting phase, and ask yourself why. Save that trip to the Irish open or the Irish sea for another piece of writing. Free yourself, lighten the load and you will find that you can see much more clearly, your intention.