Realising your manuscript needs work!

I’ve just edited the initial draft of my novel set in the 1990s.

Like any novel at this early stage, some scenes work, some need work. But for the first time I sense this manuscript needs more work than my recent novels did at this early stage. It’s not because it’s bad. It’s because I don’t think it’s capturing the ‘feel’ I want.

I have fond memories of that period. Me and my now husband attended many huge dance parties (a.k.a rave parties) and went clubbing along Sydney’s well known gay strip, Oxford Street, regularly.

1995 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Poster (1995) by Pierre et Gilles
Sleaze Ball Poster 1996 (5 Oct 1996) by Richard Hughes

The story elements are strong enough to develop.

Yet, most scenes where the reader needs a sense of dancing all night on disco biscuits, aren’t as strong. The feeling is referenced and one chapter succeeds. It has two characters day clubbing on ecstasy. This is the chapter I’ll finesse and use as inspiration as I rework the others.

Another scene takes place at the Boys Own Bake Off, a charity cake auction to raise money for people living with HIV. But this scene didn’t hit the mark. I was looking forward to reading it as I included several memories from the event. At this stage the chapter is a series of diary entries looking for a narrative.

From the Sydney Star Observer, 1999.

My descriptions of certain House Music tracks also fall short.

To get around the copyright restrictions of quoting lyrics, I made a list of music referenced in the novel, then listened to them with headphones while verbally dictating what I felt.

This sort of worked. With each four or so line description, half capture a feeling while the rest is just bad prose.

Stills from many House Music videos of the 90s

I also want to change this piece to present tense.

This is my second third-person narrative and I need to work more on a connection with the characters. Along with deeper P.O.V., present tense will help this feel more immediate.

There are three storylines centred around six characters, and the main story needs more oomph! It’s half-developed. It falls away for too long in the first half as other storylines take over, so one major character disappears for a while. This has to be fixed.

Photo Credit – Tracey Nearmy/AAP

All up, I have a well realised outline.

My first instinct is to rework the original outline, then have a new word document open next to my previous draft and rewrite the book from scratch. The first priority is to give each character more depth. Secondly, I must make the novel more personal, perhaps more poetic, in the drug taking scenes.

I had a period of worrying.

I think this is normal for any author who looks at what they’ve written, knows it has to be better, but doesn’t have the skill to know what to do.

My mum always knew what to say when I faced a dilemma like this. Sleep on it. Give it time to work itself out. A lot of what I’ve written in this blog has come from setting these issues out of my mind.

The haze has lifted. The real work is about to begin.

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