So I’m going back to the original manuscript and starting my pruning from a different perspective. I had cut a lot from the book, but it wasn’t getting better, it was just getting shorter and thinner, not as much depth, not as rich, and it felt rushed. Maybe it needed to be 135,000 words? No. I knew the book was lardy, over written, Too Much Stuff. So I reconceptualized my approach. (That’s the way we MFAs talk. Actually, I just said, “Well, this sucks, Crusie, try again.)
I started with that classic, “What is this book about?”
Nita. What’s the key to Nita’s conflict? She’s alone, she’s an outsider, she’s always cold, she’s in denial about how she doesn’t fit in, she thinks it’s her fault and if she just tries harder to be normal, she’ll finally be warm, so she dedicates her life to saving the people she can’t connect with and just gets colder. What happens in the resolution of the book? She’s surrounded by a community she connects with and who understands and accepts who she is, and she’s committed to a good guy who knows exactly who she is and will love her until the end of time.
Okay, that’s a book. It’s not a plot, it’s a character arc, but still a book.
So that first scene? I’ve got Nita cold and alone in a car with a stranger. Then her brother gets in and he clearly loves her and approves of her and supports her in every way. Then her ex-boyfriend gets in and tells her he has a new girlfriend. Which of these things undercuts the “alone and cold” beginning I need for Nita. Oh, god, I have to cut Mort. Either that or make him a bastard to his sister and I do not want that. Except I kind of need him, so . . . crap, as Button would say. Well, I can cut him from this scene anyway.
Then there’s Nick in the next scene. Nick has to echo Nita, cold and alone, and he’s dead, so I got that part right. But I gave him two minions who respect him and set him up against Vinnie, who’s alone now that I’ve cut the Hotels. What I need is Nick alone, caught between two communities that emphasize that. So in the rewrite, Rab and Jeo are respectful but wary of him, and Vinnie gets his Hotels back, a damaged but still functional community. And Nick is there in the middle, emotionless and alone. And then Nita walks in.
I like this. Nita’s alone and outside the bar, a literal outsider, and Nick’s alone in the bar, and then 135,000 words later in the resolution, they’re together in the bar, warm and surrounded by a community that knows exactly who they are and loves them for it. And also they’ll love each other until the end of time, but that’s a given, it’s a romance novel.
I actually. think approaching this from character arc instead of plot may be the solution. I just have to start over and use the character arc as the spine. Community. Food. Bad sex. A dog. It’s a Crusie.
You know, making stuff up isn’t difficult. Making stuff work as a coherent narrative is a bitch. She whined.