Friday, July 20, at 7 p.m., at the Wild Fig Bookstore in Lexington, Kentucky, I’ll be reading from my unpublished novel. I’ve been working on it for about 20 years and it is just about done. If you come, you’ll be the first people outside my writing group to hear the tale. River City Talent Showcase is the story of Sandy McKinley who, after being laid off, moves to Ohio and joins an all-women’s singing group whose sole purpose is to make its members sing the same, look the same, dress the same, act the same and think the same. In the middle of all this sameness, Sandy struggles with who she is and what her priorities should be. While she’s figuring out who she is, her father (who has Alzheimer’s) is forgetting who she was.
I started this book back when I was a member of Sweet Adelines, the international organization for women singing four-part barbershop harmony. I wrote parts of the first draft and then started workshopping it. I workshopped it. Then I workshopped it some more. Then I took it to grad school with me and workshopped it there. At that point, I realized that I had begun to lose my voice in the book. Each time someone whom I perceived to be more of an expert than I suggested a change to the manuscript, I made it. Finally, when one of my professors made a suggestion that struck me as being totally off the mark, I realized that my book had lost its way.
So I put my manuscript physically under my bed and let it sit there with the dust bunnies for about three years. Finally I pulled it out and tested the waters to see if I was still interested in it. I was. So I started a major rewrite to get my voice back in it.
The first thing I discovered was that the earliest chapters really stunk. The good news was that it affirmed for me how much my writing had improved over the years. The bad news was that I had to bring the early chapters up to snuff.
The next thing I discovered was that I had new ideas. Me. My own ideas. For one thing, I tried moving the novel into the modern day, but then decided to leave it back in the 80s, when I’d originally set it. That required two rewrites. Add cell phones. Subtract cell phones.
My most recent change has been to rearrange the time sequence: since so many of us are getting laid off, I decided to open the novel with this. Those of you who have written a book-length work will understand this already, but I am now going through and looking at every reference to her working situation to make sure that it accurately reflects what she’s doing at that point in the book. And since she moves when she’s laid off, I also have to do the same thing for her physical location. It might sound easy, but it’s challenging.
Want to see how it works out? Come hear it at the Wild Fig on Friday. At least you can hear the first chapter. Then tell me if you would want to read more. I hope so.