May 1, 2012
We’re all very excited here at Wordwatchers – Charlotte’s been featured in the ‘New Author Profile’ in the June edition of Writing Magazine, sharing with its readers her thoughts on ”creating realistic worlds for the Restoration characters in her debut.” It’s a lovely piece about Charlotte, her book, The Apothecary’s Daughter, and how it all started.
We’re particularly pleased because Wordwatchers gets a plug: “Join a writing group. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Wordwatchers’ support and encouragement.” Thanks Charlotte!
May 1, 2012
At the last Wordwatchers’ meeting, in April, I shared my efforts of a rewritten first chapter. ’Being mauled with velvet claws’ is what we’ve called it in the past; the wonderful act of sharing your work and then sitting back and listening to a group of people you respect, and trust to be honest, share their opinions.
On this occasion, it wasn’t pretty.
Last year, the opening chapters of my novel got an airing with a small number of literary agents, generating some very positive comments (along with the rejections). The main issue, it seemed, came from it being something of a cross-genre story – and therefore doomed from the start. One agent did actually ask to read the whole manuscript, which suggested it might not be as big an issue as I first thought, but when they too couldn’t commit, I knew I had to do something.
So, I set about reworking it more into the crime genre – after all, the book has always started with my main character being asked to find someone, in something of a classic ‘film noir’ style. And this was the new first chapter that the group was reviewing.
Many of them had read the earlier version, and all had previously responded very well to the main character. This time, however, they didn’t; they felt he lacked sufficient drive to engage the reader – and there was less to like about him. The newer members of the group, who’d not met my character before, tended to be more positive, liking my take on a classic detective story, and the overall pace of it.
It was then that the penny dropped.
I didn’t want to write a crime novel. Yes, there’s a crime in it, but I realised that in order to give it the pace required to sustain that aspect of the story, I had stripped out much of my character’s depth and in doing so rendered him a lot less effective, and a lot less likeable.
But it starts with him getting the case, I thought. It always has. And people have always liked that. How can it start anywhere else? But although the readers were liking where the story was starting, I knew it was setting the wrong expectation for what was to follow.
My book needed a different opening.
So, I’ve spent the last few weeks writing it. A new opening chapter arrived literally within two days of my velvet mauling, and has since been followed by five more chapters. And it’s feeling so much better – I’ve learned a lot over the last year about the book I want to write, and realising that is probably the most useful thing I could have done. Maybe that seems a bit obvious. But letting go of established truths has never been an easy thing to do, and that’s what I was asking myself to do – it’s what I needed to do, if this rewrite was going to do anything other than tweak a book that people already seemed to like… but somehow just not enough.