Monday, March 9, 2015

Unfinished Business

The good news: I got a request from an agent who’d read the first fifty pages of SEESAW EFFECT and asked for the complete manuscript. Even so, based on the not-so-great feedback from the seven who rejected it, and some pointed notes from an editor friend, I’ve gone back to the drawing board with this project.

It’s not a great feeling. I was emotionally done with SEESAW; over a hundred pages into my mystery, the ENCLAVE, and really enjoying that process. Returning to a project I’d thought I’d finished feels like defeat. And I find myself in a mental argument about certain changes. How much should I have to spell out? Should certain character motivations be obvious or do I need my protagonist to explain them? If you know why someone’s being a jerk, does that make their jerkiness less obnoxious? And am I the only reader on earth who finds snarky characters funny?

It’s common wisdom that in between drafts one and two, a writer should put their manuscript in a drawer for six months, so when she pulls it out again, it will be fresh and new and the mistakes glaring and obvious. But that’s never worked for me. It’s been almost six months since I started querying this project – I sent letters right after the election – but when I opened it again, it was like I had just finished it yesterday. I remembered every plot point, every scene, every line of dialogue. It’s my baby. Forgetting what I’d written would be like forgetting the way my son’s head smelled when he was a newborn.

I don’t know if I can fix it. To me, like my son, it’s perfect.

And what’s even more frustrating is that I’m constantly critiquing other people’s novels, and the problems are easily identifiable and the solutions obvious. Between the reviews I do for Chick Lit Central and the reports I write for the agency I read for, I read about eight books a month. Why can I diagnose other books’ issues but not my own?

I know many writers who enjoy the rewriting process – they find it less daunting than starting a brand new story and facing a blank page. For me, the rewrite is the worst part … tearing apart scenes I loved because they didn’t forward the plot; reworking a character because no one else found him funny.

But the bottom line is, the only difference between writers who make it and writers who didn’t is that the former didn’t give up. And declining to rewrite a story that doesn’t work is a type of giving up. And yes, I’ve seen those stories about writers who queried 200 agents and got 199 rejections before they found the one who finally realized how wonderful their book was. But those anecdotes never mentioned if the writer did any rewrites during that query period. I’m going to assume rewrites were done.

So, back to the drawing board with SEESAW EFFECT. A little older, a little wiser, and a little humbler. Wish me luck.

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