Friday, June 26, 2015

The challenge of reviving a novel drafted years ago

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The idea of writing a novel has been part of my life since I was a teenager, influenced by an excellent library - and two librarians - at my high school in Jamestown, NY.

But it wasn't until the 1990s that I actually pounded out a rough first draft of a novel about young woman in search of her father, a father who had been abusive and spent years in jail before disappearing from her life almost completely.


Jack London at the wheel
But that book, Jack's Boat had been on my mind as I penned both The Fracking War and Fracking Justice in the past three years. The draft of it is novella-length, but I have always known it certainly had sufficient bones to make a full-length book. And today it's on my computer desktop, being edited (and rewritten), with the intention that about 25,000 more words will join what's been written to fill it out to full novel length.

The challenges of resurrecting a novel draft written nearly two decades ago are manifold. Technology changes. Places change. Social and culture mores change.

And then, there is simply the changes in the author.

Jack's Boat as drafted is, stylistically, substantially different than my recent novels. But what I learned in drafting those books - and with the help of good editors - is forcing some serious alterations in sentence length, use of dialog and even how to craft interior monologues of characters. And the story! Rereading this tale is like listening to someone tell a story you have heard before, but that you were hazy on many of the details.

All in all though, finishing Jack's Boat is already proving to be a fun ride. But I have an awful feeling there's tragedy ahead somewhere in the balance of book.

And the title? Jack's Boat refers to one of the vessels owned by late American author Jack London, whose works (and life) have had a huge influence on me since I was a teenager. Huge.

That's enough chatter. It's back to revising Chapter 6 of 19.

No comments: