I did not think I had it in me. I rewrote The Inn at the Crossroads and it is much, much better. I shrank the introduction down from 14 pages to 7 to 4 or less. Not bad. I rewrote Chapters 1, 2, and 3 and re-edited the rest of the book. But most importantly, I have started the book closer to the end than I previously had. I got it as close to the end as I could, Mr. Vonnegut. Honest. I ignored, much to my shame, this little nugget of wisdom on my first, really second, novel. I hang my head.
“5. Start as close to the end as possible.
Have you listened to the talk about exposition? Don’t start your story trying to explain everything about your world’s setting or history or characters. Throw them into the fire (perhaps literally), and have us learn about the setting from the charred pile of dead unicorns in a square pit.” From Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing Fiction By Taylor Campbell.
I thought, well, my introduction starts at the end. It gives the whole thing away.
But I was wrong because, in Chapter 1 alone, I had 10 pages of exposition and knew it. I was kidding myself. In the end, I did not trust my readers to get my story (or me by proxy), so I told rather than showed. I violated all kinds of good and great fiction writing habits. My only defense, your honor, is exposition has been my career. When writing fiction, I sometimes fall back on explaining and expounding. I’m a great one for expounding. Give me a nail and I’ll expound it into a two by four faster than you can blink. As we used to say in the biz, tell them what you are going to say, then tell them, and then tell them what you just told them. I’m not sure this makes for interesting fiction. After finishing The Inn At Market Snodsbury, I have finally seen the light. Yes, it took writing four novels before I saw the light. Now I have the fun task of editing my past self’s work. Very chagrin making, if that’s the phrase I want.
No wonder I put Chapter 3 as one of my excerpts rather than Chapter 1. Frankly, Chapter 3 was better than Chapter 1. In Chapter 1, I got stuff out of the way, indulging my Dr. Hyde side. So now, as Mr. Jekyll, I throw you into the fiery pit with all those unicorns and one tired little pony.
I have finished Chapter 1 and edited the entire book. I proudly posted the Introduction, Chapter 1 and 2 in Excerpts. Thank you Kurt! (Did I mention I saw him in the bookstore across from the Coop when I was a visiting Professor at Harvard?)
I think I over applied this next piece of advise in Chapter 1.
“8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
But the story should be so awesomely written that they will run out and buy another copy and a can of Raid.” From Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing Fiction By Taylor Campbell.
“Delete, rewrite, delete!” That’s my new mantra. I cannot describe to you the pure joy of this rewrite of Novel number 1 in the Omniverse Series. As I am a writer, I will try. “Ah, oooh, aaaah, yaaaa, ugh, grunt, YES!” Now that I have clarified that, why don’t you go read an excerpt from my even better novel.
This felt so good. I continued on and am deleting even more clunky prose. The Inn of the Star Crossed is a little gem at 75,000 words. The Inn at Market Snodsbury is brilliant at 90,000 words. I haven’t even started editing that novel. I finally understand what Stephen King meant, you have to be willing to delete the pretty prose. How hard is it to delete that pretty prose in the window? Very hard but I have hardened my heart.