Monday, May 19, 2014

Second Thoughts on a First Novel

In January, I finished the final draft of my first novel The City of Death and promptly submitted it to the Copyright Office.  My original intention had been to publish it as an ebook on Amazon towards the end of the year.

In reviewing the manuscript over the past few weeks, however, I've had second thoughts about it.  As I suppose any other writer does when writing a first novel, I had created characters that were composites of individuals I had known in real life.  Also, though the plot itself was completely invented, I had thrown into the story anecdotes from experiences I had had while living in New York City.  These were primarily incidents that had occurred in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side in the decades I've been located here.  My idea had been to use these as distractions to relieve the tension building in the main plot line itself.  

I feel I've been successful in what I set out to accomplish and have produced a novel that's well written and absorbing.  On the other hand, I now believe I've used too many episodes taken from the real world in what is after all meant to be an imagined reality.  Although I certainly don't have any dark secrets in my past, I'm as hesitant as anyone else to release information about my life onto the internet.  In addition, I now think a few of my friends and acquaintances might recognize something of themselves in the composite characters I've created and feel betrayed no matter how great pains I have taken to mask their true identities.  Beyond that, the world of drugs and graphic violence I have described in the novel and which is characteristic of the mystery/suspense genre is of course not part of my own milieu, and I would not want na├»ve readers mistaking fiction for fact.

For all these reasons, I've decided to hold off publishing my first novel indefinitely.  What I most probably will do will be to rewrite the book from scratch.  I still think my original idea - a noir murder mystery in which the victim is a black & white film photographer - is intriguing and worthy of exploration, but I also think it would be better served in a story that is told without using material from my own experience.  I intend to start on this project later this summer and eventually put the work online, complete with new title, after first having published my second novel, the first draft of which I only last month completed.