I have some bad news for those waiting on Reconstructing Evelyn; it’s going to be a little while. (Then again, maybe nobody cares. But there it is.) Why? Because I have some serious work to do on my writing.
Not long ago, I went back and read part of Finding Evelyn. To be honest, without trying to sound conceited in any way, I found the writing wasn’t bad at all. Yes, the story line was still a little too “focused” and there were places that could be improved, but the writing was actually not that bad. I didn’t read it and think, “I can’t believe I put that out there.”
That has not been the case with Reconstructing Evelyn. No matter how long I let it sit, no matter how many times I try to edit it, I still kept getting the feeling something wasn’t right. The draft was sitting at around 40,000 words and I felt I had told the story. For the life of me, I could not understand how I would ever get it to the 80,000-word mark, which is the normal size of a novel. And the writing, while not horrible, was far from what I would deem as “good”. It definitely wasn’t coming from the same writer who wrote Finding Evelyn.
A few days ago, my inner critic piped up and planted in my head that I needed to sit down, from Chapter One, and rewrite the entire novel by hand. I was not happy about this, but I started it anyway. Last night, as I wrote out a scene in Chapter One and began adding the visual elements that were missing, it all clicked into place. The reason the writing in Reconstructing Evelyn and the writing in Finding Evelyn don’t appear to be coming from the same writer is that they aren’t. I’m not the same writer I was back when I wrote the first novel. Not by a long shot.
While yes it’s probably been 10 years since I finished Finding Evelyn, I started on it way before that. I had actually forgotten how long ago I began writing it until I was reading a scene about the birth of a foal and a memory of me talking about it with a friend who breeds horses resurfaced. That conversation happened across the counter at the video store I managed, when I was in my early 20s. I started and finished Finding Evelyn before I wrote my first article as a news reporter. Since finishing Finding Evelyn, my entire writing career has focused on writing news articles and getting better as a writer of news articles. Creative writing was just a hobby I did when I had a few minutes.
And therein lies the problem. Even though I knew there were differences between writing news articles and writing novels, I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into it. Writing is writing. Right?
They are two completely different skill sets and one I’ve honed and one I have let slip away to improve the other one. I am still writing like a news reporter, regardless of whether it’s coming out of my head or not. I am still “telling” the story instead of “showing” it because, well as a reporter, that’s kind of what we do. And I am telling it in the shortest way possible.
So, basically, it dawned on me, I currently have a 40,000-word news article sitting on my computer. That’s basically what the draft of Reconstructing Evelyn is right now. A really, really, really big, fiction news article.
So, I have a lot of work to do and that work is going to look a little weird to some. That work means I need to do a lot of writing exercises. That work means I need to take a paragraph and write it, then rewrite it, then rewrite it again until the words flow out imaginatively instead of matter-of-factly. I need to take one scene and keep focusing in on the details until I’ve shown the reader what happened and not just told them. I need to make my brain think creatively again. I need to connect with other writers who will give me honest constructive criticism. And I need to do this until that is what comes out first. Until writing news articles is the difficult task, instead of the other way around.
In other words, I need to reconnect and improve on the writer who wrote:
He motioned for her to hurry, holding one finger against his mouth, signaling her to be quiet. Sidling up next to Chris, she peered over the gate in time to see a sac containing the foal slide from its mother’s womb. Holding her mouth to keep from commenting, she stood, mesmerized, while the mare licked at her baby, freeing it from its life-sustaining covering. Evelyn couldn’t move, watching as the baby came to life, realizing she was witnessing nature at its purest. The foal tried to stand, its too long legs buckling underneath it. It tried over and over, until finally, its legs got the message, bowing slightly under the weight. When it began to nurse, Chris seemed satisfied and backed slowly away from the stall, pulling gently on Evelyn’s sleeve. Reluctantly, she followed him from the barn and let out an excited giggle when he closed the door. “I’m so glad you woke me up. That was so cool.”
And disconnect from the writer who wrote:
With the rush over, Nikki looked up and noticed Evelyn. Fixing her cappuccino and pulling a cherry scone from the display, Nikki walked over to the table with both and placed them in front of Evelyn. “You’re here early today. You should have gotten my attention,” she said.
Evelyn smiled. “It’s okay. I just needed to get out of the apartment. Thank you,” she said, taking a sip of the cappuccino.
Nikki nodded and wiped down the next booth over, talking as she scrubbed at the table. “Whatcha studying?”
Nikki grimaced. “Exam?”
“You’ll do fine,” Nikki said and patted Evelyn’s shoulder, before heading to the kitchen, their interaction for the morning now complete.
So, for the time being, all novels are on hold until I sit down at a computer as a novelist and not a news reporter. Until, when I think of myself as a writer, I honestly, truly think of myself as an author, not a news reporter. It’ll happen. I know she’s still in there because she makes an appearance every now and then. I just don’t know how long it will take.
Let’s just hope not too long.