What I’m learning from rewriting my first novel

sping pussywillows_2 copy

I wrote my first novel, The Local Rag, in 2003.

Like most first novels it was a masterpiece.

I sent it out and as the response came in I decided maybe I didn’t want to be a novelist after all.

I hid the manuscript in the back of my filing cabinet.

Four months ago I dug it out. It hadn’t improved with age, but at least I could now read it without weeping and gnashing my teeth. To my surprise I discovered if you could overlook the very bad writing (which I admit was difficult, even painful) there was indeed a story buried in there, one even more in need of telling today than it was thirteen years ago.

I review quite a number of books by independent authors (see link below to my video book review blog Not Your Friend, Not Your Family book reviews) and most of them are making the same mistakes I made in my first novel. This means if you continue writing for ten more years you should at least achieve my level of skill, which, come to think of it might make you want to rethink your career path, especially if you consider the lack of success I’ve attained.

But I digress.

What the rewriting of The Local Rag (yes, I’m rewriting it) has done for me is affirm my criticism of the work of new writers – at least in my mind.

To put that another way, I am now rewriting The Local Rag in accordance to what I’ve suggested many new authors do to improve their work.

And what are those suggestions:

  • Begin with Goal, Motivation and Conflict: what does my protagonist want, why do they want it, and what is preventing them from getting it? Write your GMC down and refer to it each time you begin to write. It will keep your story focused.
  • Don’t over explain – especially simple actions and the description of characters. Leave it to the reader’s imagination
  • Use adverbs sparingly. Especially don’t use them to explain your dialogue.
  • Leave out everything (and I mean everything) you can’t attribute to developing character or advancing the plot.

In 2003 the word count for The Local Rag was about 82,000. The 2016 version will likely be about 60,000.

Of course, a significant number of the words deleted are “that” (used 910 times) and “just” (used 279 times) in the original manuscript.

However, I hope the new version supports the theory that less is best when it comes to writing.

Herewith is blurb for The Local Rag. I find writing the blurb before you actually begin writing the novel is another good way to keep focused.


Do you believe everything you read in the newspapers?

Jim Mitchell doesn’t.

He’s a journalist and the publisher and editor of a community newspaper, The Sentinel.

He gave up a career with big media because he couldn’t justify their choice of what to cover, couldn’t tolerate the way they edited his stories and would not be implicit in misleading the public to benefit some hidden corporate agenda.

When he bought The Sentinel he thought all that would end. Being owner of “the local rag” he could select the stories, edit the copy and make sure the interests of the community were served.

He would print the truth – no slant, no bias, no spin, and he’d make a living doing it.

He was wrong.

Right from the beginning Jim’s brand of reportage rankles some powerful people, people who pay his bills. Then there’s the new competitor, a multinational media conglomerate that’s expanding its generic community newspaper format into The Sentinel’s market area.

Soon it’s a struggle for The Sentinel to make a profit and for Jim to keep true to his uncompromising ethic.

When his best friend, Anthony Bravaro decides to run for mayor Jim’s hopeful for the first time he’ll see an honest politician.

Hope turns to dismay as Jim watches the quest for power turn a good man bad.

Tony’s campaign tests Jim’s professional objectivity and personal integrity. When Jim confronts him with damaging information that could end his run for public office he finds out how far Tony’s prepared to go to win the mayor’s seat – farther than he ever could have imagined.



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Video book reviews of self-published authors now at Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ