I've been working on yet another revision to my novel. When it was my MFA thesis, it was described as "complex" and "ambitious," and I failed to recognize the veiled criticism in these adjectives. I'm not ashamed to admit now that I wasn't up to the challenge I'd set for myself, which is more or less the story of my life. But at the Sewanee Writers Conference in 2004 I got some sound advice from Richard Bausch: Divide and Conquer. My complex, ambitious novel had two separate timelines with overlapping characters, interwoven through 400 pages. No wonder the deluge of queries didn't stir up any interest among agents. Too complex, too ambitious. (Which is not to say there weren't other problems, but that's a different story.)
Following Dick's advice, the book is now two books. I have just finished unraveling the first strand, which was originally backstory for the second strand. But it didn't quite stand on its own, I realized. What to do? At the gym this evening, on the treadmill, I realized that there are three new scenes I have to write to make this work. I know where they go, I know what's going to happen, I know how to punch up the ending. I needed to write it down, so as not to forget it, as I did recently with a story I wrote in my sleep, but I had no pen. And as I stood at my locker, forcing myself to memorize what I'd come up, I looked down. There was a brown pen, dropped by a UPS guy. I picked it up. I'm ready to go.
[Book two, I think, will be easier, becuase it shouldn't require much new material. I hope.]