Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Revisions, agony, despair--and light at the end of the tunnel

It's no secret that I've struggled with the fourth Kelly O'Connell mystery--struggled, agonized, torn my hair, given up and gone back and decided it was all awful. You name it, I did it. But at long last I finished the draft, read it through a couple of times, revising, correcting as I went. Then I gave it to Fred--I keep explaining who he is, but Fred was the prof who saw me through graduate school when I wanated to specialize in western American literature. He taught genre fiction classes among other American lit subjects--westerns, mysteries, sci fi. And in the years since--would you believe 40?--he has remained friend and advisor. He reads everything I write--or almost everything.
I knew that after all that struggle I had sort of galloped across the finish line in a rush. Fred spotted that and made some suggestions, and throughout he saw things that I simply needed another pair of eyes to see. He sent one single-spaced page of suggestions, mentions of time warps that weren't meant to be, discrepancies, etc. I thought it would take weeks of work.
This morning, after a late start, I turned to Fred's list--and finished all but one huge major part. It went much more smoothly than I anticipated, and I had fun doing it. Now I have an important concluding scene to write...but I decided enough was enough for one day. Then I'll re-read a couple of times--but by now I'm afraid I know the thing by heart. It will take a brand new proofreader to catch errors.
While rewriting and correcting, I noticed a couple of things: I thought I had proofread this manuscript until it could not possibly contain an error or a typo--and yet today, even in casual glancing, I found all kinds of both. In one place, early in the book, Fred suggested that I pick up some information from previous books--for the reader who hasn't met Kelly. I went back and the best passage I found was in the very first book, Skeleton in a Dead Space, so I copied it, put it in place and went in to edit it to fit. I was amazed aat how my style has changed--dare I say improved--since that first book. After all these years, can it be that I'm learning to write? Fred says this is a more complex book than the previous ones, which surely is a step forward.
Being back in Kelly's world has revitalized me. I'm seeing ahead and finding more Kelly stories in my head. My editors had asked how many I planned, and I didn't have a clue. At the time I was struggling with number four and more seemed hopeless, but now I have several ideas. I like Kelly, and I like the people around her. I had even considered--sort of--giving up mysteries and writing about Scotland, perhaps a time travel novel (I know, Diana Gabaldon did it and can't be equalled) partly because I thought such a book would have more depth than my cozies. Certainly it would require more research. But Fred's use of the word "complex" made me think twice. Sure, I may write about Scotland some day--always a dream--but for now I'm happy with Kelly and her soon to-be-introduced counterpart, Kate, of the Blue Plate Mystery Series. Watch for Murder at the Blue Plate Cafe in Feburary.
Meantime, Kelly number four is tentatively titled Dogs, Drugs, and Death. I'd love your comments on the title.

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