Editing a manuscript of literary fiction is not for cowards


Right now, and throughout this summer, I am traveling around the upper Midwest for shows from Duluth to Chicago and points in between.

When I'm not traveling I am continuing to work with other artists, helping them with their projects as a consultant.

When I'm not doing either of those things I'm working to edit my manuscript for my second novel.

 That's what this post is about, whittling down a too long fiction manuscript.

 What I'm finding is that just about any piece of writing can benefit from being shorter.

Haha! Sad but true.

I do not follow this line of reasoning with my blog posts however because these posts are intended to be my morning pages and are done stream of consciousness with only a one minute spell check and grammar type of edit process. The blog is for me, and hopefully for readers, to identify with the flow of an artist's life over time. This blog is meant to be taken as a gesture of comradery and trust between myself and those who are interested enough to partake.

None of the above applies to a work of literary fiction. 

The way I see it in literary fiction, you have to earn the reader's trust, and you earn it by not sending them off on wild goose chases.

I learned after the publishing of the first "Sidney" novel that a reader can interpret almost anything as a goose chase if that's the way they read.

I consider this to be a plot driven mentality, and for me personally, it has less of a place in literary fiction.

For me the good novel of artistic value is not like a mystery novel or an historical novel.

Literary fiction for me is a genre that embraces character analysis and philosophical themes that land somewhere beyond the plot of the story.

Morality can be played out through plot by a character getting what he deserves, and that is played out in the plot.

But there are subtle issues of the heart and the mind that do not play out so obviously.

The points that I am trying to make about "Sidney" in book two sort of hover above the storyline itself, like how her values are changing, and how she sees the lessons of the things that happen to her.

So, I am reading and rereading chapter after chapter, trying to hone the subtle themes so they are clear but not ruinously obvious for the reader. I don't want to wreck the vibe by stating it all so clearly that there is no art left at all.

As I strip away parts that I added to the manuscript originally, I notice that the things I'm taking out are like colors that make the whole painting muddy.

I took out a chance encounter with a girl from school that Sidney had because I realized that the reader was with me in that chapter and that I ran the risk of losing the reader off on a tangent of wondering if this new girl was going to become more important and have a bigger role in what was going to happen. No, she wasn't going to, she was just going to pop in and pop out. Well, that's the kind of thing I probably can't afford to risk with my readers right now at this point in my storytelling. I probably shouldn't make them meet a new character and start thinking about her, only to have her disappear and never be mentioned again.

For me, I would have enjoyed the luxury of having this other girl appear for a moment just to show the reader how Sidney is reacting to people she runs into from her old life. That is interesting because it could show how Sidney is changing.

It may be interesting, but it isn't worth the risk of bogging down the story and losing the reader, and making a boring second book, and getting bad reviews from people who read it, or worse yet, having it not get published at all because it isn't captivating enough.

Maybe someday I will be like Theodore Dreiser and publish long works like "Sister Carrie", but I seriously doubt it.

I may complain about editing but I probably want these cleaner smaller books.

I love to hold the first "Sidney" book in my hand when I talk about it from the stage. I am always gratified by the feeling of the slim yet substantial paperback book that has the beautiful cover of the guitar made of flowers, and I love knowing that a whole world of a young girl and her most difficult winter is completely intact inside these neat pages. 

I hope that this second book feels that same way for Sidney's college years.

Writing novels is hard work but it's very stimulating and it works your brain and your heart in new ways all the time.

Here's book one. You can buy it on amazon.com or order it from your local bookstore.

Many public libraries have copies now as well.

Or you can buy a signed copy from me at my next show.

Hopefully book two will be out soon.


Jeff Parkman May 26, 2018 @12:59 pm
I bought it since I thought my daughter might want to read it also. I already had read it but might want to read it again now that I got to see you perform more. I've been working on a deck project on our home and like to put on some of your CDs--- gives me energy and makes working on the project more enjoyable! Glad to hear that Duluth went well.
Courtney May 26, 2018 @07:17 am
Thanks Jeff! I'm grateful! Are you reading it? Do you like it? Thanks for your support of my blog too!
Jeff Parkman May 24, 2018 @10:32 am
I couldn't find the signed Sidney copy I had bought from you at Volkman's so I bought one from Amazon. Have fun in Duluth.
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