This post reports my recent progress on Housebreaking the Muse and describes some major reworking to the novel’s opening section.
Several weeks ago, I began to realize the opening section of the novel was just too disjointed. Because of the many narrative entities and the multiple universal planes at work in this novel, I realized it’s a bit unfair to the reader to simply chuck him into the deep and hope for the best. I think it’s important to take a more logical approach at the outset, give the reader some ground on which to establish a foothold, then start leading him through the funhouse. Indeed, while the novel aims, by necessity, to have an unusual structure and a host of narrative entities carrying the story along, there’s no logical purpose to disorienting the reader right off the bat–it’s not that kind of work. I need to teach the reader how to take on the rest of the work to come. In particular, I must address is the existence of these multiple universal planes and explain Ubu’s predilection for moving among them.
Consequently, I’ve switched the old opening chapter (which presents Rigaut at the front in Lorraine) with the older second chapter (in which Ubu introduces himself). I’ve reworked the Ubu chapter to provide the lay of the land of the project he’s embarked on. This involved relocating passages in which he explains his scheme to repay his “stepfather,” Ray Burke, from later chapters. I also added some passages to do a more thorough job of introducing and explaining the players, the project, and the interrelationships among all.
Because Ubu will be the overarching narrative entity, the closest the book has to an omniscient narrator (he is, after all, a “second-rate deity”), I made moves to establish his authority from the outset. I also made changes to properly to set up and transition into the chapter to follow (Rigaut at the front). In so doing, I tried to make good use of Ubu’s special ability as a second-rate deity to jump around in time, observe and report on the inner workings of the other characters’ minds.
I’ve also realized that this reworking necessitates a new third chapter that provides background on the novel’s other main character, Ray Burke. I’d long ago drafted such a chapter, but I found it overlong and pedestrian. I’ve taken the best passages from that chapter, cut the dross, and am currently in the process of writing new passages that more concisely and more poetically attack this work and set up the chapters to come.
This edit involves covering a lot of well-trod territory and, maddeningly, tossing out a lot of work. Still, it’s all quite necessary. And I console myself that all the background I won’t be using on Burke is still necessary as part of building that character’s dossier. In the end, this major revision of the opening will make writing the balance of the novel much easier because it will better highlight the path I need to follow.