Revising Leah

February 5, 2009

The End

This blog has been an act of redemption.

In the months and years following the publication of the first edition of Leah back in 1996, I found myself increasingly unhappy with the book and the quality of the story I had written. My unhappiness loomed over all of my other writing, eventually paralyzing to me to the point where I stopped writing creatively altogether for a few years. It became a goal of mine to revisit and rewrite the novel someday. I needed to redeem myself as a writer, because I knew I am a better writer than the fool who published that poorly written book in 1996.

And, perhaps more importantly, I wanted to redeem Leah Nells, one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever created. She deserved so much better than to languish in the flawed fictional universe where I abandoned her over a decade ago. This project has been for her as much as it’s been for me.

The project is complete now. The novel has been revised and republished, my sense of myself as a writer has been redeemed, and Leah Nells is at last in the story that I imagined for her so many years ago. With nothing left to do and nothing left to revise, I’m bringing this blog to a close. This will be my last post.

I want to thank everyone who visited this blog, everyone who left comments, and everyone who linked to me from their own blogs. It’s been fun meeting so many different people.

I’ll be starting a new writing project — and a new blog — soon. The new book and the new blog will both be titled Juvenilia (there’s a link in the sidebar). Both the book and the blog will be an ambitious project in which I’ll be collaborating with the two main characters in the creation of the novel. It should be a lot of fun, and I hope everyone who followed this blog will join me for my next one. It will probably launch sometime around the first of March. Until then, I’m going to take a little time off, try to drum up some publicity for the new edition of Leah, and continue to proselytize over at Publishing Renaissance.

Endings are often awkward, but at least this is a happy ending.

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June 10, 2008

The Big Picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 11:20 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As I said in the previous post, a lot of the work that I’ve done in this revising process has been to delete material from the text, but I am adding some material to the text, too. One example is the full text of Leah’s speech about the Egyptian pharaohs that Leah presents to her class later in the novel. Another example comes at the very beginning of chapter fourteen. There, I’ve inserted this short exchange of dialogue between Heather and her friend Melanie:

“Hey, you know that girl named Stacey — you know, from English class?” Heather asked Melanie the following Monday. Once again, the two girls, David, Alex, and Leah were sitting in the back of history class, spending the last ten minutes of the school day meeting to discuss their presentation.

“Yeah, why?”

“You didn’t hear?!” Heather asked. “Emily told me all about it at lunch.”

“Told you what?”

“You’ll never believe this . . .” Heather said with a giggle, but as the two girls gossiped, Leah tried not to pay any attention. She and Alex had just handed their notes over to David, and she was much more interested in hearing what he had to say.

On the surface this may not seem like a very significant exchange, and the reader might be inclined to join Leah in ignoring it and getting back to the real story between Leah and David. The conversation between Heather and Melanie doesn’t seem to offer much more than another not-so-flattering glimpse into Heather’s character.

But there is a lot more going on here than two girls gossiping about another. I’ve included this short passage in order to expand the fictional universe in which the novel is set. The girl named Stacey that Heather and Melanie are talking about is one of the main characters from The Spring, and the event they are talking about is alluded to in that other novel. Obviously, this connection between the two novels will fly over the heads of those readers of Leah who haven’t read The Spring, but it also serves a little reward for those who have read both books.

Both Leah and The Spring are components in a larger series of three novels. The three novels are connected in terms of setting (the high school that Leah Nells attends is the same school the characters from The Spring attend) and thematically. All of the books in the series attempt to answer the same basic question that is at the center of most teenagers’ lives: “Who am I and what is my place in the world?” Each story offers different solutions to those questions. Here is a schema that outlines the basic plan for the novels:

Book

General Theme

Time Frame

Leah

The individual

Fall, 9th grade

Juvenilia

Family

Summer, following 10th grade

The Spring

Friendship

Spring, 12th grade

One doesn’t have to read the novels in the order that I’ve outlined above — one doesn’t even have to read all of them. Each novel is a complete, self-contained story featuring a different set of main characters and its own unique plot (think Thomas Hardy rather than William Faulkner). In fact, The Spring is set some three years after the story of Leah, and while Leah Nells doesn’t appear as a character in The Spring, one might imagine that she is still there, in school, somewhere.

But while each novel stands on its own, I like the idea of inserting little references to the other stories in the series. The second book in the series is still very much a work in progress, but I’m planning to include a brief appearance (sort of) from Leah in that novel. Again, it will be a situation where if you haven’t read Leah, you won’t catch the reference, but if you have read it, you should be able to recognize her when she appears, even if she isn’t mentioned by name.

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