Monday, July 25, 2016
I say I have finished writing a book. Arielle says I have not. This may be a semantic or philosophical issue. This very morning around four a.m. , I typed the last words of my novel, L’Amérique, an opus that has now been rewritten about 120 times, which is only a slight exaggeration.
About three months ago, after an exchange of emails with my agent, Arielle and I agreed that the book’s point of view should shift from omniscient to that of the main character, a 10-year-old Parisian boy whose family decides to move to America. She signed on to edit the thing. She had read another book of mine, Thirst, and liked it. I, in turn, had read a few pieces she’d written and enjoyed her style. Additionally, Arielle, an English major at Bryn Mawr, knows grammar, sentence structure, and how to use a semi-colon, among many other useful things like the definition of the pluperfect and conditional tenses.
What happened was this: Arielle started chopping at the book with a bit too much glee, I thought. The word chainsaw made quite a few appearances in her conversations and in the blogs we’ve been publishing on www.seidmansagnier.com. We trimmed more than a hundred pages because the events described could not have been known or related by our young hero. We deleted fifty pages alone that described the boy’s parents before they met and had a child together. A duel held in a Parisian courtyard was taken out. We grafted the book’s sequel I’d begun writing onto the back of L’Amérique. It was tough. Some of my best-written scenes were excised, though I’m confident they’ll resurface in another book. I had to write a lot of new material, and Arielle, it turns out, has a wonderful way of duplicating my style.
We didn’t agree at first, and we still tussle from time to time on the exact meaning of a word. She’s usually right. I have a tendency to ascribe French meanings to American terms. She also detests sentence fragments with the sort of fervor usually found among rabid fans attending sporting events involving a much reviled opponent.
This being said, we work wonderfully well together. We spent the better part of the afternoon reading the book’s first four chapters aloud to each other. At one point, Arielle stopped and said, “I wrote that entire section.” I gaped. I wouldn’t have been able to recognize the section as not my own if she hadn’t told me.
The fact of the matter is, it’s now a much better book. It reads smoothly. Chapters segue seamlessly, and the pacing is excellent. There’s still some work to be done. Inserts will be inserted, and it’s possible the end comes a bit too abruptly so I may still have to add a page or three.
We’ll be going to see my agent in a couple of weeks. I think he’ll like it; we did what he suggested, and then some.
Frankly, I think we have a winner.