Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Demolishing a book

In my author’s guest book, Sara was curious to see what I am working on. Katherine says her website is really for her published books, but if I want to then I can blog about my muse-work here. So this post is for you, Sara, and anyone else out there who might be interested in what writers and their muses really do all day.

The truth is a writer at work is not very interesting to watch, because a lot of muse-work is invisible and happens inside their head. You know how famous authors in movies are always ripping sheets of paper out of their typewriters? They scrunch them up and throw them across the room with a curse, and then five minutes later you see them type THE END, and in the next scene piles of their books appear in the shops and in the hands of eager readers? Well, these days most writers simply hit the delete key on their computer rather than scrunch up bits of paper, and this can happen rather a lot when a book isn’t going well, which is even more boring to watch! But I’ll try to explain what I’ve been up to.

For the past month or so, while waiting for a decision on the series about King Arthur’s daughter, I have been demolishing a book Katherine wrote two years ago. It took her a year and a half to research and write this one because it is 100,000 words long, which is not quite as long as the Great Horse’s book, but almost! One of the things I am doing is making it a bit shorter, and another thing I am doing is pulling it to pieces and putting them back together again in a different order.

When Katherine first wrote this book, she was experimenting with structure, so it ended up in three parts with the same story told by a different viewpoint character three times over – or rather three different versions of the same story, according to what the characters know or believe to be true. At the heart of the story is a supernatural love triangle between a young Genghis Khan, his blood brother and his childhood sweetheart... and since it didn’t find a publisher at the time, I got the blame for writing it wrong! So I am now hard at work rewriting some of it and putting the book back together in a more linear form with the three viewpoints mixed up to see if it works any better. This is turning out to be a useful exercise, because it shows where the characters repeat things unnecessarily (these bits can be deleted) and where the plot has holes in it (which means adding something to explain the missing parts). When I’ve finished, though, I’ve got a horrible feeling Katherine might ask me to put it back into three parts again…

So what the Muse would like to know is this:
Would you prefer to read this book in sequence (easier to read with more focus on the plot)? Or would you like to see the original 3-part structure (more challenging to read with more emphasis on character)?

All feedback welcome, because this is the sort of thing that makes a Muse’s horn ache!

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