I sent my entry, White with Fish, Red with Murder, off to the Minotaur "Best First P.I. Novel Contest" today. I set out to give the novel a once over before submitting it and ended up doing a re-write the last six weeks or so, and there was a contest deadline of July 2, so I've let other things slip a bit.
I cut more than 3,000 words from book. What I ended up with was much better than what I started with. Why? Well, despite the fact that this story has been with me for more years than I care to admit, I think I came at it with a new mind. I recognize it as the same old story, but in working through it again, I believe that I found a better way to tell it. Perhaps the right way to tell the story, the way I've been struggling for all along.
How did I do that? Part of it is experience as a writer. When I first put this story down on paper, it was the first detective story or novel I'd attempted. Now I've sold three short stories and published another for the Kindle, and I've written a novel and two-thirds of another.
Part of it is learning. I took a Stanford class last year, and four of us have continued for some 12-14 months to exchange and critique our work. My online pals don't write detective fiction, but they seem to have a commitment to read mind with an open mind and respond to it with more seriousness than it deserves. I learn from their feedback and from reading their work.
I also took a class at the Writers' Center in Bethesda this spring led by Jim Matthews. I believe that class showed me how to cut 17 pages from the beginning of my book, without losing anything the reader needs.
So, look out First P.I. Novel contest entrants. Here comes White with Fish, Red with Murder.