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Where Do We Go from Here?

The revisions to my Mississippi novel have reached the “listening to the computer read to me” stage. I’ve received wonderfully helpful feedback from Beta readers and spent 2 months implementing it. “Implementing” sounds so neutral, but I wrote another 20,000 words and revised the ones I already had on the page. Now a computer-generated voice is sending my words back to me.

The novel has 5 narrators living in the same time and place, which creates many challenges in coordinating their timelines. But, mainly, I spent these two months fleshing out the lives of these 5, very different narrators. Some readers liked one narrator and not the other; other readers felt the exact opposite. I took this for a good sign and wrote into the deficiencies noted both ways.

Then there’s the balancing of story time given to each narrator. And varying the scenes. And bumping what I’ve written up against the “talking isn’t something happening” rule (a rule of my own devising, but I’m sure others articulated it before me).

This stage is also when I read it with the eyes of someone who won’t like it. I imagine them writing a review zeroing in on what really gets on their nerves. Where am I being too didactic? Too predictable? Am I skimming over important moments? Have I left loose threads? Where are the “oh, please” moments? It’s hard to keep my mind on not liking what I’ve written, but I find it helpful.

As soon as this boringly uniform computer voice finishes reading the 96,000 words, the manuscript will go to a paid editor. Then the revision process will begin again. I cannot give you a timeline for this incredibly slow phase (listening to the first two chapters has taken two hours, and those are the most polished chapters.)

I don’t know why I’m doing all this work as I have low expectations a publisher will want this novel. It is very political. It’s about a lawsuit but not a legal thriller. It’s about race. One of the 5 narrators is Black, and I’m white (how could I write a Mississippi novel about race and not have a Black narrator?). A white narrator starts out unaware how racist he is. One of my readers said it was the best thing I’ve written, but if it sells I’ll be shocked. Delighted but shocked.

Even so, as always, it’s important to me to get it right. This is how I played competitive tennis as a girl: to be the best I could be, perfect my stroke, hit the tiniest edge of the white line while keeping the ball in play. Winning trophies thrilled me, but I refused to do it out of competitiveness.

Anyway, this is a time-consuming, boring phase of revision, but necessary. I’m doing it in a hotel room in Memphis while it rains from Hurricane Zeta. We hear our houses in NOLA and the Gulf Coast had yard damage from the storm, but the houses themselves are intact, thank you, Jesus. As soon power is restored, wee will leave here and go see for ourselves. In the meantime, enjoy these photos of Memphis.

The lobby of the Central Station Hotel, the old train station
The famous Arcade Restaurant across from our hotel
The wall of speakers in the hotel, which focuses on Memphis music
The hotel entrance lit up at night

Memphis Central Station Hotel, Mississippi novel, novel revision

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