Restructuring a Book

I have decided I’m going to take an unpublished book of mine and split it into three or four sections with the intent of offering them as serial novellas. The book has been through several publishing houses and received positive comments (so I know it’s “good,” whatever that means in this context), but no commitments. I’ll talk more about this soon, but I’m posting this now to touch on a process issue that this brings up.

Taking the time to break a book like this up into component pieces is fascinating because it’s changed the basic flow of the narrative I had built earler. By that I mean I had worked to make the story connect over the span of the novel, but now as I look at the story as probably four separate pieces I think things change. I want each piece to be successful on its own, so each essentially has to be built from the ground up with its own beginning, middle, and end.

I find myself shifting things from place to place in order to ensure this structure is working. This morning, for example, I finished a section and wrote a note to myself that read: “Chapter 36 is 11 boring pages. (1) What are the main ideas in it, and (2) can I move them somewhere better?”

Poor chapter 36’s problem is two-fold. First, it’s a lot of exposition embedded in conversation, and second it now just happens to fall at the beginning of a “book.” Where it once was an interesting conversation meant to show characterization and act as a pacing item, it now represents a slow start. It’s the first chapter I’ve needed to consider completely redoing in this pass.

I suppose I may be particularly sensitive to this because I’m also thinking about my “rewriting” topic at the Bartholomew Country Writer’s Conference in October. This process itself could serve a as backdrop to that discussion. We’ll see. But right now it’s serving, I thinking, to continue to teach me about the act of writing–which is always a good thing, right?

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