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Process Letter to My Second Reader 5.1

January 26, 2009

I sent out the first draft of my manuscript to my advisor and second reader six days ago, and already heard back from my second reader. I have a lot of work ahead of me… Here’s one of the letters I mailed out:

Dear XXXXX,

How have you been? I’m excited to work with you! Thanks. Things are good back in Buffalo. Snowy. It’s been about -12 every night, so it feels like I never left Vermont. I am looking forward to the drive out to LA in February. Ah, sunshine and beach. Again, the dates for LA are Feb. 14th (3-4 day drive out) and we plan on driving back in the beginning of March (but this may change depending on how well my boyfriend’s step dad is doing with his chemo). We may opt to stay longer. Either way, I’ll have my own space to work in there and don’t have a problem buckling down and doing work in strange places.

So here is my first packet with my completed draft of part one of manuscript Stalking America. I should feel excited about holding an actual draft in my hands, but I feel more tentative. I kind of don’t know what to say about it. I’ve gone through it extensively since the end of the semester and cut out whole sections and chapters, but in the process I’ve looked at it so much I can’t really see it fresh. At this point I feel like there is a spark that is missing, but maybe I am being cynical. Is it interesting? Does it try too hard? I’m actually nervous showing it to a second reader, because so much has been done to it… but nobody has seen it all together as a whole. XXXXX has seen it through the process and how sections have grown, but you’ll be seeing it completely fresh and in a state of disarray.

But here goes:

The whole beginning of chapter one has been rewritten since the end of residency. I wrote it up several ways and then went with this format, which is a blending of each approach. I’m not sure if it is altogether successful. I’m worried that I may have lost some of the momentum it had before, but wanted to give more detail and texture of place to let the reader ride the senses in.

There has also been an extensive rewrite of the manuscript pushing as much as possible into a first person present tense voice. This seems to work better for the manuscript overall and forces me to keep it engaged and focused on letting the reader ride along in the moment when possible. There was a definite difference between how the XXXXX sections read, as opposed to the XXXXX portions, so a lot of effort was spent trying to make them cohabitate in the same text and voice. There was a lot of coaxing and elevating. I feel like when you buy a new goldfish and place the bag into the tank in order for it to acclimatize and meet the other fish. Does that mean if I’m not careful it will go belly up?

Certain portions were left in place out of fear that I was going cut crazy or because I think they needed to stay while I figured out if I could make them work… but if you think something “just needs to go” let me know. There’s a sort of inverted logic in this book where important things are sort of intentionally left flat, whereas the main character really delves into some of the more texture stuff. I think it’s interesting what the main character thinks is important, notices/observes, or what he questions. He makes assumptions that things just are, but then gets really into how he thinks certain things fit together. In a lot of ways I am thinking about space: carving space out for oneself, how space is singular or shared, and the physicality of some of these spaces (interior/exterior).

The final portion of chapter nine has literally been tacked on. Chapter nine is the final piece in part one (for my manuscript I am only completing part one). This will be the bulk of the completed novel. Part two will be a separate story with the kid focusing on camping outside Jennifer Muir’s compound with the friend and observing her and has a different feel and voice. They are essentially two stories that go together. Chapter nine sort of trails off after a climax and part two would cast all that stuff in a scene and contextualize it. What’s here just summarizes what the reader wouldn’t know until the beginning of the next part.

Well I should wrap this up! Thanks for all your feedback and I look forward to working with you.

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