Tag Archives: rewrite

Pick a Scene

I’ve been asked to rewrite THE DIVORCE PLANNER and have narrowed down the opening scene to the following choices. Please pick one and let me know in the Comments section below.

Scene 1:

Darcy was thirty when she first thought of representing a client through a divorce. Not in a legal sense. But a supportive sense. A celebratory sense. A sense that evolved, after many years of dedicated effort, into a lucrative career. Until she left Southern California with its self-reflective gaze and moved to Northern California to be closer to Joyce, her only daughter, who lived and worked in San Francisco, a little over an hour south of Santa Rosa, where at fifty years old Darcy settled with roommates she hardly saw in a city where she knew next to no one in a life that felt even lonelier than the one she had left behind.

Scene 2:

Darcy sat in her roommate’s living room with her laptop propped on her thighs as she scrolled through the hotel listings, searching for the perfect spot for her client Cyril’s Freedom Party. Cyril was a thirty-five year old working woman finalizing a divorce after twelve painful years of marriage who had hired Darcy as her divorce planner. The hard work of attorney’s meetings, mediation, custody battles, distribution of assets, payment of liabilities, and personal counseling sessions would be over in six weeks, and Darcy wanted to surprise her client with a wonderful Freedom Party in Las Vegas, suitable for her client’s slim budget.

Scene 3:

Darcy realized she should have not picked up her phone when she noticed her daughter’s number, but she pressed the speaker button anyway as she drove in afternoon traffic to the attorney’s office to meet her client, Xavier, for the three o’clock mediation with his soon-to-be ex-wife. Joyce’s voice sounded tinny against the wind that whipped through the open windows of Darcy’s ancient Audi that lacked air conditioning, but Darcy wasn’t about to roll up the windows when her back stuck against the seat from Sonoma County’s summer heat.

“Mom, I need to talk to you,” Joyce said.

“Then talk,” Darcy said.

“I’m getting married and I want you to plan my wedding,” Joyce said.

Scene 4:

As an experienced divorce planner, Darcy was prepared for nearly every kind of emergency that might occur on the big day.

Except for reconciliations. That was a new one.

The distinctive moment when her client, Richard, barged into the Freedom Party to announce he was getting back together with the woman who should have become his ex-wife slithered up her spine like an eerie promotion. All of Richard’s remaining friends, family, and co-workers had gathered in the ballroom of the Vineyard Creek Inn around tables decorated with red, white, and blue streamers drinking colorful alcoholic beverages and listening to loud music while a Santa Rosa Junior college student dressed in an American flag bikini waited to jump out of an American flag cake to give the newly divorced man a lap dance of freedom. Darcy rushed into the kitchen nearly tripping on her heels. “Stop the meal preparations!” she shouted.

Should You Rewrite for Representation?

open laptop and a personal organizer on an office table

I finally found an agent to represent my crime novel only if I can rewrite the book in the antagonist’s point-of-view.

Ironically, that is the only point-of-view missing from my original 120,000 word manuscript. First, I cut 20,000 words to get the novel within the 100,000 word guidelines most agents seek. Second, I cut the prologue and epilogue since most agents said they weren’t necessary. Third, I added a few flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle that had been deleted by the prologue. Finally, I rewrote the ending to add the symbolism needed to hint at the missing epilogue.

After sending the manuscript to 64 agents over many months and receiving mostly instantaneous rejections, I took a break and focused on other things. I learned about concept writing and rewrote the one line pitch and one page synopsis and gained the attention of my current agent-to-be whose only request was to rewrite the entire manuscript from multiple points-of-view to a single point-of-view.

It may sound like a simple request, but that’s not how I reacted.

After calming down, I sent an email to the agent-to-be requesting a telephone conversation. I woke up at 5:30 am and placed a call to New York at 6 a.m. For fifteen minutes I discussed my concerns, going over my woeful history of almost sales over 25 years writing fiction. “How was this experience going to be different?” I asked. “It’s just another request to rewrite without a contract.”

The agent-to-be listened patiently before she responded. “You don’t have to do anything,” she said. “You may shop the manuscript around and find someone interested in the story as it is or sell it on your own. But if you want my support and expertise, you need to rewrite the story from the antagonist’s point-of-view. She’s the most interesting character, the one I want to know the most about, and I feel cheated as a reader because so many questions could be answered by her thoughts and feelings but aren’t because I don’t have any access to them.”

Hmmm…my beta readers had actually said they liked not knowing what the villain thought and felt.

But here was someone who worked to sell manuscripts to major publishers who had time and money and expertise to expand an author’s readership.

Could I find the time between working six days a week, going to school, and parenting children to rewrite the manuscript from another point-of-view?

If I decide to embark on this task, I do so without guarantees. I don’t have a contract with the agent. I don’t have any promise of publication. I only have one person’s opinion and a dream to be read.

What would you do?


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Daughter Knows Best

Trust a Teen or a Publishing Professional?

Last year, amidst the holiday celebrations, I received a letter from my literary agent stating she would no longer represent me. The New York publishers she had pitched my young adult novel to had told her the plot wasn’t engaging enough and the main character was too young.

My daughter tried to encourage me by telling me she would help me rewrite the book so it would attract the attention of another literary agent who would finally sell it.

She kept her promise, read the novel, and critiqued it.

While she was reading and critiquing, I researched current publishing trends. I read young adult novels from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to Smart Girls Get What They Want. I filled notebooks with magazine articles and blog posts detailing teen speech patterns, habits, fashion, and concerns. I volunteered to be near teens and chronicled first-hand encounters of student-teacher interactions, relationships between peers, and tensions between grade-levels. I witnessed teens sending secrets texts while pretending to pay attention in class. I overheard stories about how they pirate e-books and music for free from online sites.

When my daughter and I sat down to compare notes on how to approach the rewrite of my young adult novel, our views vastly differed. I wanted to set the novel in present time to use my research, but my daughter wanted to keep the historical context. “It would be fun to learn about a time before cell phones and iPods,” she said. I wanted to start over from page one, but my daughter wanted me to beef up the plot by deepening the romance between the main character and the boy-next-door.

“Rewriting the whole book is a waste of time,” she said. “You only need to change a few things.”

Changing only a few things in the scope of a novel seems daunting. I rewrite like an auto mechanic overhauling an engine. I do not know how to rewrite a book like an auto mechanic performing a tune-up on an otherwise solid engine. But that’s exactly what my daughter had asked me to do.

Of course, I don’t want to listen to her. After all, she’s a teen with limited experience, not a professional who can negotiate a lucrative publishing contract and advance my career. But she insists she knows what she is talking about, as a teen and as a reader. And, being a mother, I have decided it would be best to listen. Because even if the book never reaches hundreds of thousands of teens, it will reach my daughter, who is the only teen who really matters anyway, right?