Round Two of my Hildegard von Bingen novel is underway, and simultaneously (for reasons of pure avoidance), so is the travel guide to Things Hildegardian.
Thinking about how I will revise each chapter is fun. I went through and put a story arc on each fictional chapter (as Iíd threatened to do in The Story Arc) and now I can see the slow points. I highlighted them in the outlines. I can focus on whether to add some action, change direction or tone, or just lop off the slow bits.
In the first chapter, it was pretty easy to lop off the beginning right after the second slow point. The lopped bits provided some context for the scene, but they didnít really further the story much beyond introducing the characters and their location in time and place. The characters can introduce themselves during the less slow parts. See? That wasnít so bad.
But all that reckless abandon and lopping away caused a dilemma. You see, Iíd used the early part of that first chapter to show something about life in the Middle Ages within a convent, things my early readers had trouble understanding without a little help (oh, those pesky modern sensibilities!). Now Iíve got to find some clever way to put those little snippets of facts into the action. Someone can coyly say ďoh sheís one of the reluctant nuns,Ē I suppose, and things of that nature.
But some of that knowledge of the 12th century needs to be in place for the second chapter to go smoothly. So there I sat, looking at Chapter Two as if it were a three-headed monster that had swooped up from under the davenport.
I turned my attention to the travel guide. I thought this would be easyóafter all, Iím changing it to a memoir with an appendix full of directions for how to get there. Initially, it wasnít hard, I plopped the directions into an appendix and then massaged the memoir-style stuff to flow nicely. But then <insert scary music> I encountered the interesting tidbits about non-Hildegard things to see in the town. These are interesting! I canít just lop them off! I canít make another chapter or appendix for non-Hildegard things, can I? I mean, the memoir must include all the non-Hildegard things I did or itís not the whole experience.
This led to the horrible question: Does it really have to be accurate? In other words, will anyone really mind if I go out of order, combine several trips into one, skip bits that I think wonít be interesting or add off-topic bits because theyíre interesting or funny? (Like the fifteen-foot tall foot and ankle that I encountered outside a library in Mainz. Wouldnít you be sad if that were missing?)
In the Travel Guide, the feedback of my readers was that the personal vignettes were the best parts. So my excursions around the town, Hildegardian or otherwise, are of interest, right? I mean the theme of the whole book is Hildegard and I plan to teach about her life as I go, but a memoir doesnít need to be completely focused, does it? Shouldnít it ramble into my own experience rather more than not?
And the fiction book, well, itís fiction even though itís based on history. I want to teach the facts, but it isnít, after all, an academic exercise. So I have to snuggle the facts in there with the more entertaining aspects of the story. Can I use this technique in the non-fiction book?
I donít know. I think Iíll go ďreviseĒ a closet or something. Itís gotta be easier.