Renovation is Not For Sissies:
So what does a writer do when her home/workplace is filled with workmen and she has a book to write?
In the beginning of May I left Florida believing I could settle into our 108 year old cottage in Chautauqua, New York. While there might be a few interruptions as renovation continued, I could work with a minimum of fuss.
As our contractor warned: “When you open an old house, you never know what you’ll find. As our architect warned: “The most dangerous words the homeowner can say at this point is “and while we’re at it. . .'”
Since constant interruptions are the name of this game, I realized after our arrival that I wouldn’t be able to work on my novel until the guys cleared out. Instead, the moment my study was more or less ready to move back into, I began editing a novel I wrote in 1987, a novel I will soon put up as an ebook. After all, editing can be interrupted and completed in fits and starts. It seemed like the perfect solution. And wonder of wonders, it’s turned out to be a success.
Similarities Between an Older Home and an Older Novel:
As I’ve worked on From Glowing Embers, I’ve seen the similarities between editing an older novel and renovating an old house.
When built (or written) both the novel and the cottage were the best they could be for their era. They followed the conventions of their time. The house had a bath and a half, which by local standards was plenty. In Victorian times, nearby houses often had sinks in the bedrooms for daily bathing More bathrooms would have been unheard of.
The kitchen, too, was tiny. Cooking was simpler, few pots and pans were in residence; most likely fewer ingredients were used.
From Glowing Embers, on the other hand, has an abundance of everything. Words. Exclamation points. Introspection. Flashbacks. Points of view. Love scenes. By today’s standards, it moves a bit slowly. Or, at least, it did before I began my work.
When I contemplated both renovations I began by taking stock of what I already had. I loved both in their former states, but I also saw that in order to live on, they had to be brought into the present day.
Head Hopping, Exclamation Points and Flashbacks:
For the book this has means a careful editing to remove unnecessary dialogue and, more frequently, unnecessary introspection. Exclamation points? Many fewer. Flashbacks? Since I love them all as they are, they will stay.
The most difficult change is point of view. Point of view simply means which character’s head the reader is in at any given moment. This novel is a romance, and originally the only point of view allowed in the genre was the heroine’s. Then authors began to sneak in the hero’s point of view, too. Finally authors began to include both points of view in the same scene, otherwise known as “head hopping.”
I haven’t head hopped in years, but when this book was written, along with my fellow writers, I certainly did. The reason? I knew my readers wanted to feel and understand both characters. What were they going through? What secrets were they keeping from each other?
These days I use multiple points of view in my novels, but the point of view characters only change when a scene break occurs or a new chapter begins. However my task now is not to completely rewrite an already satisfying novel, but to tweak the scenes where the head hopping occurs. Some head hopping must remain because it enriches this story. Some of it will disappear. Gone, too, will be some of the introspection, so that the book moves more quickly. Gone, too, anything that bothered me.
The Pleasures of Change:
Both renovations are maddening, filled with choices, disappointments, and moments of surprise and delight. But the freedom to make those choices and carry them through? Priceless.
No matter how many times I bang my head against my newly shored-up and insulated walls, I know that both this cottage and this novel will be so much better for the effort.
Renovation photos and novel to debut soon.