What I’ve Learned Lately

A novel means going down the same road many times. (Monte Dutton)
A novel means going down the same road many times. (Monte Dutton)

I just finished another once-over – a third-over, if such a word exists, or, perhaps more properly, a fourth draft – of my third novel, which is called Crazy of Natural Causes. I now consider it ready to be publication, though it is not impending. I considered it ready after the third-draft, too. After I finished the first draft of a fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I decided to edit Number Three again before I go back to Number Four.

This photo inspired a scene of Forgive Us Our Trespasses. (Monte Dutton)
This photo inspired a scene of Forgive Us Our Trespasses. (Monte Dutton)

None of this occurred because I was following a master plan.

In the latest round, I trimmed about four thousand words off Crazy, which leaves its word count at about 94,000 words. It’s about the same size as my second novel, The Intangibles, and shorter than the first, The Audacity of Dope.

(Note: I italicize the ones that have been published. My goal is italics for the other two.)

It’s only taken about three weeks to revise Crazy one more time. It sort of like parachuting back into a war zone one more time, even after the battle is over. I had to go back inside all the characters and think the way they did, and conclude, well, Chance Benford wouldn’t have said this exactly that way, or, Wally Ruff probably would have let that remark by Zeke Reynolds slide. Things like that.

One priority has been to minimize the gratuitous. The first two novels might have had a wee bit too much shock value. Sometimes, the characters were just showing off too much. I toned them down a little, and I got rid of a few incidents that didn’t really keep the story moving toward its shocking conclusion.

Unlike, say, Pat Conroy, I haven’t lived a life that can sustain my writing forever. Having read Conroy’s catalogue, I feel I can compliment him for having a family even more dysfunctional than my own. Oh, I’ve still got some Dutton family arrows in the quiver, but I think it’s a sign of growth that I want to invent people, places, and situation and put myself into the mind of conjured people who don’t happen to be much like me.

For a writer, this is good. For a life, it’s, uh, character-building. In theory. Writing is a wonderfully therapeutic means of finding some acceptance of the various scars, traumas, foibles, triumphs and tragedies that litter all our paths to one extent or another. I’ve got my own customized neuroses, but I doubt I’d be as adept at writing without them. It’s like I’ve often told an audience about a song I wrote, “If a woman breaks your heart, look at the bright side. You’ll get a damned good song out of it.”

My first novel.
My first novel.

My mother and I had a conversation on this general subject. I told her one of life’s tragedies is reaching a point where one cannot fix one’s own problems. Sometimes it seems to me that people don’t want responsibility for their own problems. It’s dangerous to let that go.

Writing fiction helps, or, at least, I think it does me.

My books – I wrote a good many non-fiction ones before I took on the challenge of fiction – are reasonably priced and available for holiday delivery. Buy one or two or five here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

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2 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned Lately

  1. Ron Page

    Congrats Monte! I’m still stuck on a rewrite/edit on my first and only book, for sure I am no writer! How many pages do the 94k words equate to?

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