One of my co-workers and I were talking recently about novel writing. He completed a novel, a murder mystery, eight years ago and was content to set it aside because there was something about his lead character that bothered him.
I had read the prologue, which ended with an unexpected murder, and liked it a lot.
The conversation drifted to the subject of upcoming novels, and we both mentioned, nearly at the same time, Stephen King’s newest novel, Cell. My friend then asked if I had ever read King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. When I said I had, he asked what I thought of it. I told him that I thought it was a nice insight into his life, how he started writing, what keeps him writing and how he writes. I mentioned that I didn’t necessarily agree with everything King said, but that it at least painted an interesting portrait of King’s writing persona. He asked if I still had a copy and I loaned it to him.
I was amazed to learn the next day that he’d already finished nearly half of it in one sitting. Those of us with anxiety disorder often have a hard time imagining being able sit still long enough to read half of anything that we like in a single sitting. He also told me that he had started thinking about his novel again, and he was beginning to realize what he did and didn’t like about the lead character.
By the next day, he was almost finished with King’s book, and had decided firmly that he needed to make certain changes in the lead character, a television reporter. Among a few other changes he plans is to advance her in age and experience: originally, since the book was written shortly after he started producing news, her character likewise was near the start of her career and felt the unquenchable need to prove herself. Today, with more than a decade of producing — and good producing — under his belt, he thinks his character should be more seasoned, already having proved herself, and beginning to question where she is in life and career and what’s next. (I think all of us can relate to that kind of crossroad in our own life.)
So when we parted ways Friday after work, he said one of the things he intended to do this weekend was to start going through his manuscript to make notes about revision. If the writing throughout is anything like the prologue, I think he’ll have a gripping and compelling tale. And I look forward to reading it!