Sometimes a new perspective can make all the difference. I’ve been editing my latest manuscript for the past year and a half, and in that time it has made great strides. It got accepted into the Author Mentor Match (AMM*), has been through one re-write, small picture edits, and I’ve even queried a few agents. I thought I was in the final stretch. However, the feedback I’ve gotten from more than one agent has been a biggie: they’re not connecting with the voice.
At first I wasn’t too concerned. One agent that isn’t connecting with the voice could be an objective criticism, as many things are. But when another person took the time to say THE EXACT SAME THING I knew there was something more I could be doing. It’s true the book is in good shape and well written, but something about it is not quite working.
I talked about it with my AMM mentor, and she gave me a simple piece of advice: try writing it in first person. So I rewrote the first page, and low and behold, the voice is there. I could feel it as I was writing, and she confirmed that the voice is strong and, in her words, popping. Some other people who saw the original draft also read the rewritten first chapter and agreed that first person draft was drawing them in more than third person draft.
This is good and “bad” news all at once. A new perspective, a first person perspective, will completely change this book. Likely for the better, but it’s not as simple as replacing “she said” with “I say.” The thought of re-writing this book is exhausting, but I also know it’s for the best. If rewriting the book will help the story then it’s clearly the way to go–even if it means more work for me!
Being a writer means not being afraid to make big changes. Listening to constructive feedback and trying new things is not always easy. We fall in love with our characters and scenes, so the thought of rewriting a book or slashing a chapter can be a painful thought. This does not mean you have to take every critique or comment to heart, of course. It’s your story, so ultimately you get to decide what you want to do. BUT, if you allow yourself to be open and try something new, it’s worth a try to see if it makes your story stand out.
*AMM: A program for un-agented MG and YA aspiring authors to work one-on-one long term with an agented author in their genre. Read more HERE
I have the strangest problem–my novel is too short! Most novelists I have encountered or read blogs on have the opposite problem. My first novel The Healing Pool was CRAZY long and I had to cut it down about 20,000 words. My current project has the whole story written but needs at least 11,000 more words to make the minimum word count for YA novels.
I enjoy cutting back. Finding redundancies and adverbs and lags in the story and slicing them down is satisfying, although also a little sad. Adding words has been a slow and tedious process. I wanted NaNoWriMo to be my motivation to beef up this novel, but if we’re being honest I got only about 5,000 words in. In my mind any adding is great, but it’s frustrating how hard it is to add to this novel. The story line is finished. It makes sense from point A to point B and could work as a novella, but I want this to be novel length. I am proud of this story and I want to have a wider audience to enjoy it. I don’t know anyone who reads novellas. The only reason I know they exist is because we talked about the different kinds of creative writing in High school! I have nothing against novellas, but I wish I knew of more people who were interested in reading them.
Part of my trouble is time and short attention span. Since graduating college I can honestly say I no longer have the stamina to sit and write a paper for 2-3 hours in one sitting. I have no idea how I managed to write as much as I did in school, never mind sit in class for 5 hours a day! Working 52 hours doesn’t help either. Luckily my work hours are going down starting in the new year. Maybe with that extra time I will try to write a little bit more each day. I can only hope Netflix will not beckon me over….
I have begun the process of re-writing Charley’s Dragons, my “finished” MS! I decided to do this after everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in my critique group were thrilled about the same parts and annoyed/angered/frustrated at the other same parts. The story was told in three perspectives, but one of them wasn’t working. I also allowed my grandmother to read the MS and she forgot almost everything that happened in the perspective my critique group hated. My mom shook this off, saying that my gramma is old and her memory isn’t fabulous, but I thought it was significant. Obviously a major part of my MS was not working, and not even worth remembering.
The original perspectives were: dialog between Charley and the psychiatrist, third person perspective showing the real world, and first person perspective of Charley in a hallucination world. No one liked the third person perspective in my group. The characters apparently were unlikable and the writing was stilted. I was feeling unsure of how to edit, when one member suggested getting rid of the third person perspective all together. I could feel the light bulb turning on over my head. I needed to re-write my book.
I am really enjoying how my MS is coming along. It was scary at first when I took out the third person perspective and my MS dropped over 40,000 words. That’s a lot to make up, especially since half of the story is dialog. I have been picking away at the story and I think it is working. I can take the events that happen in the old parts and make them even more interesting in the remaining parts. The word count is slowly moving ahead (I’m up to 21,000 words! Woo Hoo!) but I think it will reach novel length. The original MS was pretty short for a novel as it was, but hopefully agents will not get pissy about a shorter novel.
I have taken a risk deciding to re-write the book, yet it was a necessary endeavor. I wanted to have an agent by now and be on the way to a second published book, but agents were not thrilled and my critique group helped me see why. I am looking forward to finishing Charley’s Dragons again, although I know the process will be slow balancing writing and my 4 jobs and needy pets, but it will get done. I’m staying positive and taking it a little bit at a time! Something is better than nothing.