I have been writing my novel, The Cost of Weather, for four years, which is apparently not so stunning in the novel writing world. I’ve come to think of this work as my thesis. Writing the novel has taught me how to write a novel. I hope. Recently, at the CCWWP (Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs) conference I chatted with Richard Scrimger about his first novel. He confessed, in his humorous self-deprecating manner, that his first novel was not very good. Bad, in fact, was how he put it. And it’s never seen the light of any agent’s day. But, he told me, it did teach him how to write a novel.
Inwardly, I sighed. Was my novel to meet the same fate? It’s out now, packaged and padded with names and credits to guard against the slush pile, but after the blush of satisfaction that it was DONE and READY, I began to wonder… and then my peers at Author Salon had a few things to say about the first fifty pages, and then… I knew. It isn’t right.
That niggling feeling that I had somehow cheated burst open and flooded me with the light of TRUTH.
I am not a man.
There I said it.
Writing from a tight first person perspective was how I was able to get in to the protagonist’s head and heart, but evidently I created a character that no one is much interested in. I thought he was hot, but that says more about me, perhaps, and my perception of and relationships with men, than it does about how this guy is perceived by almost everyone who has read the work. This has been an on-going issue that I thought many times I had rectified. I gave him more power, chopped off his finger, made him a bit funnier… alas, no one is buying his transformation. And so what…?
The real story is Katie’s story. The present manuscript introduces her about halfway through, and her story resonates with Simon’s. He raises heaven and hell to try to get his daughter back into his life, and he’s a good guy. Katie’s husband molested their son’s babysitter and after he gets out of jail, makes no effort to connect with his son. Both Katie and Simon were blind to their respective spouse’s true intentions.
Suddenly it just makes sense to tell at least half the story from her perspective. Three years ago, I considered this, but I didn’t know how I would tackle it. The notion seemed overwhelming and beyond my capacity. I wrote fifty pages of Katie’s story and then cut it out. Luckily, I still have those pages, and now I think I can do it.
In fact, I’ve begun. One word at a time. She’s in first person, he’s in third. It’s a different story now, but it’s the story I’d really like to tell. Now all I have to do (aside from write it) is think of a title. Any suggestions?