I am working with an agent to get a novel in shape to submit to publishers. I've been working with this agent for almost a year now (in fact, I just realized that tomorrow is the anniversary of our face-to-face meeting wherein we became engaged--I mean, when he became my agent and I became his client), and I've done two major revisions to the work so far. Neither of those revisions managed to fix the problem with the second half of the book, and it was only during a phone call with my agent about a month and a half ago that I realized what the actual problem was. Some back and forth with Mr. Agent ensued at that point, and I told him that I know what the problem actually is, and that I can fix it, but it will take some time and work. (Now, you might be wondering what the agent actually liked about the novel since it's not submission ready and I'm doing major revisions to it, but honestly that's the way it works a lot of the time and when you get your own agent, be prepared to do more work on the novel; sometimes a lot of work.)
Anyway, here are the details. My protagonist is involved in a familiar story and is telling his own story as it relates to the famous story. The first half of the book explains my protagonist's growing involvement with the famous story (which is "Hamlet," by the way), and the second half of the book tells the story of "Hamlet," sort of, and my protagonist's role in those events. Or at least, that's the premise. In reality, during the second half of the book my protagonist often fades into the background and is merely a narrator of my version of Shakespeare's story. My version is significantly different from Shakespeare's (because I lean heavily on not only the sources Shakespeare stole from, but I also take the characters in new directions), but still I end up focusing not on my protagonist's tale, but on him telling the tale of "Hamlet." Which was interesting, but in the end confusing and a problem.
So I've figured out that the way to deal with this (or the way I'm going to deal with this) is to use my version of "Hamlet" as the framing story instead of the actual story, and I've come up with an original dramatic arc for my protagonist that overlays and intertwines with my version of "Hamlet" and keeps the focus on the protagonist. So cool for me and Big Win, right? Almost.
The problem for me now is that almost none of my prose is going to be salvagable. If I can keep 20% of what I've written, I'll be very lucky. I began writing the new first chapter this week, which I had planned to create out of the existing Chapter 4, but I think that I want to essentially rewrite the whole book from the ground up. I'll keep some of the work, but I learned a huge amount while writing a different new novel this winter and my now-much-smarter-writer-brain wants to use my newfound writer smarts and not try to retread the old stuff. It looks, frankly, easier to start from scratch. I have a sort of bet with myself that I can come up with a complete draft of the new version by July. We'll see how well I do with that.
I know that Michelle has rewritten her most recent book (Monarch) from scratch, and I know that Davin is thinking about rewriting (or writing a whole new version of) his novel Rooster. I also know that the latest novel I've written, Cocke & Bull, is in some ways based on my very first (and very bad) novel from about 15 years ago. There must be other people who have scrapped entire novels and rewritten them from the ground up. I'm betting some of you have done that, and I'd like it a lot if you could share your experiences with that, and pass along any advice you might have. Also, please tell me the work was worthwhile!
Also: Happy Friday, and about time!