INTRODUCTION & SUBMISSIONS
Introduction to Making the Novel
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In 2016, I completed the first draft of my first long-form novel, DoveLion—its year-long writing process is documented in a book aptly entitled #EileenWritesNovel (Otoliths, 2017). I set that first draft aside for two years as I wanted to maximize objectivity when I turned an editor’s eye to it; editing is as critical as first-draft writing in creating a novel. Having worked mostly as a poet, I also required the time to clear away a lot of poetry-related obligations so that I could make 2019 a year devoted almost entirely to the novel. By this I meant, not only editing to finish the novel but exploring possibilities for its publication.
Most of my editing occurred in the first half of 2019 but I continue to tinker with it—I might, indeed, not stop editing it until someone publishes it to put me out of my misery. In editing DoveLion, I was blessed to have two readers (one of whom was gracious enough to provide a manuscript evaluation; I hadn’t realized such editing was her “day job”!) as well as a sensitivity reader. In the process, I increased the novel’s word count to as much as 130,000-ish words before bringing it down again to the current word count of 85,820.
My experience in writing and editing the novel recently made me consider all of those words that were written to help create novels … but in which those words may never appear. In my earlier failed novel attempts, I often turned some chapters into stand-alone short stories. However, most of the prose that I’ve deleted from DoveLion are likely to remain in my archives, which means there’s a good chance they’ll be lost to eternity. Thus, I thought to ask other novelists to share excerpts from their novels categorized as (1) excerpts deleted from published novels; (2) excerpts from unpublished or in-progress novels; (3) excerpts deleted while writing unpublished or in-progress novels; and (4) excerpts from “failed novels” (as defined by their writers). I thought the sharing might prove educational about the massiveness of the work that goes into creating a long-form novel. It is—at least in my experience—the arduity of writing out all those words in the first draft that creates anguish when one begins the phase of cutting them out of the work. Indeed, when I learned from Sesshu Foster that about 50% of his first draft didn’t make it into the published version of his novel Atomik Aztec (City Lights, 2005) I was so happy in the way of, as the saying goes, Misery loves company! (Not that I wished Sesshu was miserable but …) I don’t think Stephen King exaggerated the toll of the rewrite when he once said:
“When your story is read for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
I also must give credit to U.K.-based novelist Ken Edwards for the idea of the fourth category: excerpts from failed novels. As soon as he mentioned how he has “plenty of material from failed novels,” I immediately thought of the 1-2 decades worth of writing I’ve produced through several such failures (deep apologies to Trees). This, too, points to the prolonged challenges of writing in this long form.
From the early days of putting this project together, specifically in reading Sesshu’s Introduction to his chosen excerpt, I actually came up with another idea: an anthology (perhaps online as it would be a huge tome) to be entitled, say, First Versus Last, where the first draft and the last or published version are placed together side by side for comparison. But, I digress…
So there you have it: Welcome to Making The Novel, a space where I try to save some of various novelists’ words—their “children”—from murder. Here, they are available to be read whether or not they will end up one day in a published novel.
Thank you to the featured novelists for their participation.
—Eileen R. Tabios
July 1, 2020
If you are interested in participating, please contact Eileen at nalandaten at gmail dot com. Works will be published as they are received or once a week depending on submissions.
Previously-published works are eligible as long as they are not yet online (for example, if the works previously were published in print journals; acknowledgments will be provided).