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  • Writer's pictureWalker Buckalew

Your In-Family Readers: Part Two

Your In-Family Readers: Part Two

In my most recent post, I wrote this:

I’m passing 90 double spaced pages (out of what usually turns out to be about 400) on the sixth novel – as yet untitled – in my Rebecca Series. That means I have reached the point at which I have asked my wife Linda to read this batch of pages and give me feedback. This is always a big step.

It is a big step that happens, for me, four or five times during the writing of a novel. It’s a little perilous because family members, being family members, have more to think about than merely their response to what they are reading. They’re going to have to live with the author after providing their response!

Okay. Linda has now read the material. Her verdict: too slow… too much rehashing of the previous novel… too little action…

You get the idea.

So, as I wrote last time, “this is always a big step.” In this case, the verdict was similar to the verdict rendered, at this stage, about my second Rebecca novel, By Many or By Few. By the time I wrote the third and fourth, I seemed to have figured things out a little better, and this (enormous) level of revision was not called for with either of those novels. Only the usual amount of editor-driven changes was needed for those.

By Many or By Few later won a national award.

In the diary that C. S. Lewis kept when he was in his 20s, there is this note regarding the book-length poem he had been working on for years, titled Dymer. He noted that when one of his literary friends read the most recently completed portions of the poem, the friend had “condemned in no measured terms” those portions. Mr. Lewis wrote in his diary: “After discussion I largely agreed with him and decided to cut them out: in spite of the work I had put into them I felt surprisingly little disappointment at giving them up. I suppose that in the expulsion of anything bad… there is always pleasure.”

I can say the same. This from-the-beginning rewriting of Rebecca No. 6 is actually the third start-over effort. In this rewriting, a great deal of material has been discarded (as making the story too slow), and I have, in addition, done substantial re-ordering of the novel. This is slow going, but Rebecca No. 6 is going to be a lot better than it would have been without the rewriting I’m working through right now. I felt that the story was too slow, and that the action episodes were too infrequent, and that the order in which various scenes appeared was not optimal, but I needed another pair of eyes to make the same judgment.

Linda did. And I’m grateful.

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