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The frustration of writing a novel: what to cut, leave in, add.

Writing a novel: it’s wonderfully frustrating!

Writing a 90,000 word novel is a challenge.

DeDe says I’m crazy each time I begin a book.

She’s probably right.

But I’m called to write and at this season of life, I’m called to write novels about Pineywoods Louisiana that tell a good story with memorable characters whom you can root for and watch grow.

My dilemma in June is cutting this book from its present 110,000 word count to a manageable (and affordable) 88,888 word book.

The trouble is that I keep thinking of scenes to add.  Here’s one I wrote last night.  It introduces the reader to Missouri “Mizz” Cotton, the book’s narrator,  and Unk Dyal, a character/character from The Wayfaring Stranger and  A Good Place.  How would you describe in single words Mizz and Unk from this passage?

Missouri Cotton, known as Mizz, is the narrator of As the Crow Flies.
In this scene, Mizz and her first friend in the area, Unk Dyal, are walking to the Westport Store:
         Unk Dyal and I passed a marshy area filled with cattails. Unk pointed his stick at a drab blackbird atop one of the tails.  “That’s Uncle Herman.”
        “The bird has a name?”
        “Sure. I’ve gotta name for most animals ‘round here.”  He whistled and the bird answered with a grating call. “Now, Uncle Herman don’t look like much, but watch this.” Unk clapped his hands and the bird flew across the marsh.  He pointed, “Look at those beautiful red wing bars.”
          The red-winged blackbird circled. In flight and in the bright morning sunlight, it transformed from a drab bird to a sleek beautiful black bird with brilliant red patches on each wing.
          Unk grinned. “See, some things look different when they spread their wings.”
          I laughed.  “So you’re a philosopher?”
         “What’s that, Miss Mizz?”
          I realized he was serious.  “It’s someone who sees things others miss.”
         “Well, I guess that pert describes me.”  He stopped, then stared at me.  “Miss Mizz, I suspect you’re kinda lot that red-winged blackbird.  There’s a lot more to you than what you first see. Once you fly, it’s a different story.”
          I hung my head. “I don’t feel like I’ve flown much.”
         “But you will.  Oh yes, I g’rantee you will.”
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Your chance to be an editor:
1. How would you cut 20 words from this passage?
2. From this scene, what words describe Unk and Mizz?
3.  What is Mizz’s self-image?  What does it seems like she wants?
4. Can you sense that Unk is a simple-minded man with deep wisdom?  How do you know that?
You can answer using form below or with the reply button on bottom of this story letter.

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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