About three years ago (really? Time flies) I wrote a post for this very blog called “Failing the Bechdel Test.” It was a quick sketch of two women talking about…wait, I can just copy paste it in here:
“I don’t understand why you’re in such a hurry to get rid of this place.”
“Other than the fact that it’s sitting here, empty?”
“So?” Emma shrugged. “Look around. It matches everything else.”
“And has it occurred to you that this might be a reason why I’d like to get rid of the place?” Ruth turned from the old house to face her niece. As she did she put her left hand on her hip. It was her, “this conversation is over,” stance. “Who’s going to buy a house out in the middle of nowhere?”
“I…” Emma looked at the ground and kicked a rock. “I don’t know.”
“Look,” Ruth dropped her hand to her side, “I know this is tough for you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t try that crap on me, honey. You’re the one with the fancy degree in psychology.”
Emma raised an eyebrow. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Nothing. Other than the fact that it means you think you’re a lot smarter than your old aunt.”
“No I don’t.”
“Honey, I’m the closest thing to a mother you’ve got. So if you think you’re gonna get away with lying to me right to my face then you’ve got another thing coming.”
“Honestly, there’s nothing going on.”
Emma took a half step back. Her aunt used profanity so infrequently that the words themselves tended to hit with an almost physical force. “Well what do you want me to say?” she asked after a moment. “You want me to tell you that, no, I don’t want to see the house I grew up in plowed under so some farmer can plant another couple bushels of wheat? Fine. I don’t want to see that.”
“You never come out here,” Ruth replied. “It’s not like you ever see the house you grew up in. And I have to do all the upkeep on the place myself.”
“Fine. I’ll come out here and help more.”
“No,” Ruth shook her head, “You won’t.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The fact that we have this conversation every three months or so and you still never come out here to help.”
“I’m here now, aren’t I?”
“Because I told you I’m going to have the place torn down. It’s the only thing that’s gotten your attention since…” Ruth trailed off.
Emma’s bottom lip began to tremble. She bit down on it, then turned away from her aunt and the old farm house to fix her eyes on a spot just on the other side of the gravel path optimistically named Leonard Road.
“Look, honey,” Ruth said after a long moment. “I know it’s tough.” She sighed. “I hate to sit here and watch you live like this.”
“Like what?” Emma asked, voice barely above a whisper.
“Like a woman consumed by fear.”
Emma looked back at her aunt. “Of what?”
“Oh.” The faintest glimmer of a smile tugged at the edges of her mouth. “That old thing.”
“I know this used to be the only place you felt safe,” Ruth put her hand on her niece’s shoulder. “Roy’s been offering to buy the land ever since you and…ever since you moved out. But I could never do it.”
“Well since you put it that way, I feel pretty foolish.”
“Maybe it’s for the best, then.”
“I’ll call Roy in the morning.”
Ruth wrapped her arms around her niece and pulled her close. “Then maybe you can finally decide to move on with your life,” she said, her voice so low she wasn’t sure she’d even managed to say anything aloud..
Emma didn’t respond. She gave no indication she’d even heard.
Emma and Ruth are two characters from a book I wrote about a decade ago called Second Chances. At the time I wanted to write a book that I could sell as Christian fiction, believe it or not. I sat my ass down and I wrote a book. I was an unpublished writer. I hadn’t even started writing blogs yet. But, dammit, I wrote a novel.
Also, too, it wasn’t even my first. But that’s a story for another day.
The book absolutely wouldn’t have sold on the Christian market. The characters just weren’t quite right, there was way too much wishy-washy philosophical stuff, and there were people who were obviously not religious and who neither became Christian nor ended up coming to a terrible end because of this obvious lack. There was a big conversion porn scene at the end that felt tacked-on and forced.
The book also probably wouldn’t have worked on the secular market. The characters were too goody-goody and no one cussed. There was a tacked-on conversion porn scene at the end.
That it wasn’t particularly marketable doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. I’ve thought about revisiting and rewriting the book a bunch of times, but never got around to it. It seems to be my I’ll-get-to-it project whenever I’m feeling stuck in life and just want to run away. The reasons for that are actually pretty obvious if you’ve read the book but, of course, you haven’t.
If you stick around, though, you’ll have a chance to change that. Starting tomorrow. Every Wednesday for the forseeable future will be Second Chances Wednesday. I’ll be publishing a chapter of my old novel a week. It will be edited and changed a bit from the version I finished up a decade ago, but there won’t be a major re-write. I honestly don’t think I need to do one. I’ve been looking things over for the first time since at least 2010, but more likely 2007 or so and I’m actually kind of amazed at how much I like what’s already there. I’m doing some editing, as I tended toward too much of a passive voice, used a baffling number of unnecessary commas, and had this weird quirk of not using contractions at the time. There are also places where I put the right words in the wrong order. I’m also going to have to make a major change to the end, since the tacked-on stuff needs to get de-tacked.
I’m realizing that there’s a reason I kept coming back to this story and kept planning to re-write it. It’s good. It’s filled with characters I who have been begging me to give their story a wider audience. Starting tomorrow I’m going to be doing exactly that. Why? Because it seems like a thing to do.
I’ve written book 1 and part of book 2 for a theoretical sci-fi trilogy I called The Earthrise Saga. That would have been, what, 2001-ish? That particular book had a lot of silliness and would require a major re-write to get me much of anywhere.
I, um, I feel I should qualify that one. Here, let’s let Fred explain it, since I stole the idea from him.
Give it about three and a half months, actually.
That was actually an artifact of the history major thing. One does not use contractions while writing research papers. It took a long time for me to realize that I could use them in other places.
Another problem I seemed to have was an attempt to force flowery language. I’ve since learned that it’s often better to cut the little flourishes, especially if they’re forced or intended to describe something that should already be obvious to the audience. An economic use of language often goes further than using too many words to say too little.
Oh, and the world is very different now than it was in 2004. There’s silly crap, like the bit where a character who would obviously be running around with a smartphone listens to voice mail and doesn’t check text messages or read emails, since that just wasn’t a thing most people did a decade ago. I also had to give the main character a new car.
I’m also going to have to do something about Emma and Ruth’s relationship based on the character sketch above. Their relationship was much more contentious in the original manuscript and it was one of those artifacts of the attempting-to-write-a-Christian-novel thing. Long story. I might explain it later.
I thought I’d have to do the same thing with the opening chapter. Turns out that I apparently didn’t remember how I started at all and it works pretty well. The first two chapters are kind of awkward, but that’s kind of a structural problem. Please bear with me…