Write It–Deconstructing a Novel



You have written a 300-page novel that took you several months or possibly a year. So, why would you deconstruct your novel after reaching the finish line?

Any published author will tell you that their published novel is the result of several drafts. I read one article in The Writer magazine where the author wrote 11 drafts before publishing a novel. This doesn’t suggest that you start from a blank page and rewrite the entire story–not if you have a computer and writing software (or even if you don’t have writing software).

My approach is to write the first draft. Print it out and begin my deconstruction process on the hard copy. I bring in my demotion team which consists of my critical mind (I once reviewed movies, books, and music) and beta readers (friends or colleagues I meet on social media). Hopefully, the beta readers give me helpful notes to allow me to improve my manuscript.

I also attend writing workshops such as the Write on the Sound conference I attended a few weeks ago and the Chuckanut Writers Conference which I attended in previous years (2014 and 2016). I find writing technique videos on YouTube, read the writing blogs, read articles in the writer magazines, and I read books on writing better. In the future, I plan on buying Scrivener software. I also use Grammarly.

I look for the following which I immediately delete from my manuscript or make the appropriate changes on my hard copy first.

  • Passive verbs and sentences
  • Tell versus show passages (which I rewrite)
  • Overwritten exposition
  • Repeated scenarios or phrases
  • Pet words
  • Bad dialogue
  • Overuse of adjectives and adverbs
  • Sentences that start with “and” or “but” (I simply remove the “and” or “but”)
  • I sometimes combine characters (if I have too many characters and they don’t move the plot forward) or I delete the characters
  • A middle section of a novel that moves too slowly

One instructor at the Write on the Sound conference mentioned the practice of deleting 30 percent of a novel. Then you have space to slide in some chunks of backstory, build the plot, and even pepper the story with the appropriate description that allows the reader to engage their senses as they read the story.

While it might seem strange that the deconstruction process is where the story develops, it beats completing the rough draft and staring at the screen asking, “Now, what?” We all know no editor will accept a first-draft or even a third-draft for publication. The rough draft gives a writer the opportunity to plot out the story and develop the characters. Writing a novel is an on-going process that reminds me of old-style photography when a photo developed under chemicals. Emergence takes patience and the willingness to return to the drawing board several times until the story is hot off the press.

If you would like some creativity coaching using metaphysical tools or my experience writing articles, essays, poetry, and fiction for three decades, sign up at Whole Astrology.

In Honor of the Day of the Dead (November 2, 2019)

day-of-the-dead-1868836_1920This beautiful image comes from Pixabay.com


From 1999 to 2005, I was a proud member of the Seattle Latino literary troupe, Los Nortenos. We gave performances (songs, poetry, and stories) for the Day of the Dead in the Seattle area.

For each performance, we wrote pieces that were juried by other members in the troupe. Here is one of the poems I recited during performances.

Spider Man & The Shamans

By Patricia L. Herlevi

Sometimes when I fall asleep, I fall deep into the heart of Africa.  Wooden men with painted faces conjure spirits forth into the starless night. They pound out rhythms with their bare feet and their shrill cries echo into the chambers of the forest.

Ancestors enter the circle as ghosts. They enter into our souls as we breathe them in and they blow wisdom into our hearts thus allowing us to teach the next generation. They educate us about our ignorance and illuminate our individual paths.

The shamans recite the legend of Spider-Man. The shamans warn us not to be tricked into Spider Man’s wicked web of illusions.  For once we enter into this illusion we are tempted to destroy the planet and other lives. Spider-Man, the trickster mirrors our deepest fears, our most vengeful anger as well as, our greed and our lust. We find him hard to resist since he presents himself in a glorious light promising us treasure.

But once we fall for the trap, we sell our souls for the smallest trinkets.  We sell our children to slave labor, our forests to the highest bidder and we slaughter the animals while leaving no place for the beneficent spirits to enter or the sprites to reside.

This is why the shamans dance tonight as if our lives depend on it. They’ll dance for twelve hours, pounding their aching feet on to the hard soil and chanting songs until their throats become coarse and raw. They tango with death and drop into the underworld where they plead with the spirits to save us from illusions. And in the end, they set us free from Spider Man’s dark ways.

Spider-Man can be tricked and he can be blinded through the strength of our ancestors.  Tonight Spider-Man will be sedated as he watches the shamans spin and gyrates around a fire.  Tonight Spider-Man will be hypnotized into a deep sleep that will last for centuries. Tonight the shamans will set their people free from their inner and outer oppressors.

The dance ends when dawn arrives and the dew appears on thirsty leaves and animal spirits return in full force reclaiming the earth, water, and sky.   The dance ends after I awake and face my daily life.  And yet, the raw pounding feet and shrill cries linger in my conscious brain reminding me that I must face my daily duties same as the shamans who wash the paint off of their bodies and tend to their harvest. I must stay awake and not fall into Spider Man’s illusions by honoring my ancestors and nature’s spirits. And by following the heart of a shaman, I sidestep the traps of greed, rage, and cravings.  I too hypnotize Spider-Man and dance with spirits at night in the manner that the Africans have taught me.

This story was originally performed with the Latino/Latina literary group, Los Norteños at North Seattle Community College, 2000.  While I was reciting this story on stage, my necklace (a beaded one from Peru), broke and beads fell on the stage.  Therefore, I feel that this is a powerful piece that should not be taken lightly.