|(c) Dollar Photo Club. Text by KEB.|
I finally started rewriting The Name and the Key and I'm so excited (and kind of afraid, to be truthful) to work on the book again. I want to share some of the crazy changes I've made so far, as well as ideas for further tweaks to the novel's beginning.
As sad as I am to see it go, I've cut the first thirty pages of the book completely. There were some little gems of scenes in there that ultimately had to go--largely opening scenes that took place in Rookwood, where Lily and her family live, as well as the spooky dream-hallucination scene with Lily's mother.
Yes. I've eliminated one of the first "holy shit!" moments of the book. But now I'm starting with an even bigger "holy shit!"--the moment that catapults the novel into its main conflict. This naturally feels like the place the story actually starts; feedback from many others tell me so, and to be honest, subconsciously I knew this, because I picked that very scene to read for my thesis defense at Seton Hill.
Before, my book's opening line was, "'When you look into the mirror, what do you see?'" That's not a shabby start--I'm happy with it as an attention-grabber--but the problem with the mirror (and what Lily sees in it) doesn't occur until page 63. (!!)
I decided to capitalize on the observations my peers made to make a completely different opening line. My beta readers, crit partners and mentors always mentioned how devastating that two very different but major milestones in Lily's life occurred the same day. So I just come right out and say it in the very first line: "The day of my first kiss was the day we found my mother's body."
And during the next twenty pages or so, the reader gets to experience these exact moments without further delay.
I admitted in an earlier post that I believed I kept getting agent rejections because my samples (traditionally the first five to ten pages of the manuscript) just didn't secure anyone's attention. This became the first problem I set out to fix, and I think I've made a substantial improvement here.
Another major change involves Lily and Andresh's relationship. Although I received comments that their love was very realistic, it was never clear to the reader why Andresh was so devoted to Lily. There's a time jump of six years after the opening scenes where Lily and Andresh are separated, but reunite in the coastal town of Mariner as new adults. That six-year gap in the story left too many unanswered questions and missed the opportunity of allowing Lily and Andresh to cement their relationship early on.
I decided that when Lily and Andresh fall for each other outright as children, to keep that bond going for four years (the fifth and sixth years Andresh devotes to the Long Walk and he cuts ties with everyone). I decided that very briefly, Andresh and his father Zurca will actually live with Lily and her family in Rookwood in order to help them finalize everything with the death and to help them prepare for the move to the coast before rejoining the Camomescro tribe. During a span of four years, Lily and Andresh will write to each other sporadically. They won't exactly be full-blown in love during this time, but they will continue to build a foundation for their later romantic relationship.
As excited as I am to dive into this new idea, I'm not looking forward to the enormous amount of dialogue I will have to rework in the middle chapters of the book. Pfft. However, I strongly believe that if I do not fix the beginning of this novel, I'll have a harder time getting into print, and I'll have a harder time following The Name and the Key with books two and three.
Writers, have you made drastic changes to your novel? Do you like rewrites? Have you found your revisions to be successful or did you prefer your original version?