Last week my very good and smart writer friend Cheryl, offered to examine the first part of my novel. She's seen much of the book in seven page increments (our page limit at workshop is seven, so we can get to everyone), but seeing the novel is a larger chunk gave her a whole other perspective.
We met at a tequila bar during happy hour, and for the next 90 minutes, over margaritas and tortilla chips, Cheryl and I talked about The Secret to Love. It was like meeting your child's teacher for a parent conference, when you know that the teacher loves your child, and that anything other than "Little Johnny is a talented, wonderful angel" was going to be constructive and offered in the spirit of: Now, what can we do to ensure that Little Johnny become president some day?
Seriously, having a trusted, smart colleague pore over your work and then offer a considered critique is far and away the best supplement you can add to your draft. In the case of TSTL, the upshot is, I need to restructure my conceit. When it comes to the "horizontal" of the book, instead of giving equal billing to backstory and ongoing narrative, I need to allow the backstory to inform the emotional drivers of the novel. The reader must become more rooted in Fifi's present world--more compellingly invited to the ongoing party. It all seemed so obvious, after two loaded margaritas!
Back to the drawing board with TSTL. Sort of. The good news is, pretty much everything I've written is keepable, I just need to build slower scenes around it. My opening prologue, a wholesale adjunct, is now a scene with Fifi, her husband and her dog at the Portland airport, as opposed to backstory about characters that are not as crucial to the trajectory of the narrative.
Now, on this sunny Monday morning, I must return to them, my little trio, and gear up the engines for this line of flight.