Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Slaughter your babies," continued, Benedict Arnold

I've already shared on this blog about having had to excise the first 100 pages of my book, a process known as "slaughtering your babies," meaning ridding one's novel of anything that blocks its progress, no matter how cherished the words.

It's worked. The book plops my heroine right in the midst of the British invasion of New York and the announcement of the Declaration of Independence: July 7, 1776. (Chapter one, posted below, still a work in progress.) As I move forward--quickly now-- I find myself "slaughtering" even more babies. I had to remove an entire chapter (posted earlier on this blog) about Benedict Arnold, a powerful scene which foreshadows his ultimate betrayal. The scene no longer works because of my change in chronology: it preceded the opening of the book. There was simply no way to "save" it, not without complicated flashbacks, which I try to avoid. So I bring him in early through "hearsay"--I was a lawyer for 20 years, so why not? Other characters, many who revere him, refer to Arnold's heroism--he really was a hero- and his battles with Congress, whose members--quite tragically--refuse to appreciate him.

Just to give away a little, not too much: The book's heroine, Rebecca, is spying on British Major John Andre, falls in love with him and he with her. Obviously, not an ideal relationship, as she goes behind his back to Valley Forge to "rat out" some British spies and Andre catches her in certain alibis. Over time she gets wind of a plot involving an American general known only as "the Monk." Readers will figure out who he is, but not Rebecca, nor the rebels at Valley Forge. The denouement that follows I will not give away in its particulars. But we do know what ultimately happens to "the Monk." (Or do we? I wonder how many readers know the real story of this tragic figure?)

I started a "thread" on a writer's group on Linked in. Apparently, I am not alone in having to surgically remove huge portions of my writing--all for the sake of plot and forward motion.

My next novel (this one is a few months from completion, but has already attracted outside interest) is going to be about Arnold himself, the events and emotions that led up his betrayal, including his love for the much-younger Peggy Shippen (Lady MacBeth incarnate), who Iago-style drops little nuggets that make him re-think his patriotism. Since I personally detest Peggy, I'll have to tell it from the viewpoint of either Arnold himself or some close third party. Anyway, that's where I might be able to "reincarnate" some of my slaughtered scenes. (And to think that some agents, but not, thank God, all, don't think American history is interesting!)

The remainder of my "slaughtered babies" will simply have to slumber in eternity, victims of my overzealous 12-hour days of writing, six days a week. Sad, but this is the process of creativity.

Still, I mourn them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.