The Peace of Wild Things

I’m currently working on a couple of projects, and feel a third one rumbling around inside.

In the middle of that productivity though, I pulled out a story I started around fifteen years ago. It was my very first complete manuscript, the very first one I wrote a synopsis for, the very first one I marketed. Of course it went nowhere. But there are some specific fellow writers, who periodically bring that story up and talk about how much they liked it. So this past weekend, I retrieved it.

You know, the premise is pretty good. I still like the characters. I love the setting. There are significant problems with it though. Not enough subplots (as in, none), not enough characters to carry a mystery, and a few scenes completely implausible. In spite of that, there’s a glowing center, like a gem, waiting to be polished.

I’ve done plenty of editing, for myself and for others. But that seems like tweaking and fine tuning. Some of my stuff has needed more editing than others, but the underlying structure was sound. This story is more like a major overhaul. Where, if it was a car, you’d be debating about the repair bill becoming a down payment instead.

I started in on it, thinking it wouldn’t be so bad, but…well…it is. Added to that, I find myself forgetting that I’m editing, and end up reading as if I’ve just found an old friend I need to catch up with. It’s a lot of fun reading, but not much work gets done.

Which makes me wonder what the best way is, to do such a significant rewrite. This will be way beyond editing. I imagine some would simply set it back in its dark box and start all over. I’d prefer not to do that though. There are some good stretches amid the problems.

Reading may be a good idea at this point after all. Settling in and going through it beginning to end, just to remember the story. And then, I think I may need to print it out so I can see the grand overall view rather than a single page at a time on the laptop. That way I may be able to shift around, move chapters, insert new stuff, cut out old. Wow. That’s going to be so much work.

And of course there’s the question, why bother when I have new stories starting? It’s almost like friendship. Why hang around with old friends when new ones are more exciting and still to be discovered? I learned the error of that many, many years ago. There is a priceless value in our old friends.

So what would your process be in such a major restructuring?

The title I chose for this one, so many years ago, was The Peace of Wild Things, taken from the poem of the same name by Wendell Berry. I still love that poem and I still love the title.

Below is a link to a song that I listened to often while writing The Peace of Wild Things. The tune is quite old, but when I hear it, I fall back into the words of this familiar story friend.

5 thoughts on “The Peace of Wild Things

      • I have been working for ages – literally – on this first novel. In-between only short pieces of flash fiction. Have been wondering for a while whether I should stop and move to another (serious) project, and let it rest for a few years…


      • It sounds like you’re able to work on different projects at the same time, since you are doing the flash fiction the same time you are tinkering. Do you think you could work on both your serious project and your first novel at the same time? Fermenting is good for a story though. And I think when we let things sit and rest, our subconscious works on them, which is why eventually we start to wonder about the story and pull it out again. It may not take a few years for your novel to rest.


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