Thursday, March 15, 2012


Editing your own manuscript can be a lot like amputating a limb. But what if, through the miracle of modern technology, that limb could be restored?

It's not that the procedure isn't necessary, especially if the offending appendage has lost its usefulness. Back when my agent was still trying to find a publisher for my first novel, Blesséd Providence, the foreign rights were snapped up by a German-language publisher who brought out the first edition in hardcover with a beautiful original painting on the cover. Two years later, when the equally gorgeous German trade paperback edition came out, but I'd still had no luck stateside, I decided to do something drastic.

Namely, I got a grip and deleted some 50 manuscript pages of backstory that I perceived as cluttering up my first few chapters. These were solid, character-building scenes, but not essential to the plot; on second thought, I decided they were slowing down the action in that crucial opening story arc. So—carefully, with the proverbial scalpel, not a meat axe—I cut them out.

It must have been the right thing to do. The first publisher I sent it to bought it immediately, and published it under my new, improved title, The Witch From the Sea. I was pleased that the story got up and running so much faster this way. But I still had to mask an interior twinge once or twice when an interviewer or book critic mused that they wished there'd been more material about my heroine's backstory. D'oh!

Recently, in the process of teaching myself some (very rudimentary) web-building skills, I decided to build a new site for The Witch From the Sea. Of course, Luddite that I am, the only kind of site so idiot-proof even I can build it is a blog. I set up a home page with introductory remarks and images, and several secondary pages devoted to reviews, a sample chapter, historical background, and various links of interest. But there was still that gaping black hole in the middle of the home page waiting for blog entries.

Gee, how could I possibly fill it?

That's when I remembered my 50 pages of backstory. The book is already written in the voice of my heroine, Tory, writing down her adventures in a purloined ship's logbook while at sea, and I realized the blogspace was the perfect opportunity to leak in pages from Tory's log about her life before the action in the novel begins. These new bits, "From Tory's Log," will serve as a sort of patchwork prequel to events in the book.

Let's be honest; not all of what I cut out  the first time deserves to be resurrected. And what snippets are worth reviving can always stand a little tweaking. But rewriting  is not a problem for me, especially if it makes the story stronger, and I'm more than thrilled to have this chance to answer those questions about Tory's past life at last.

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