Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rethinking writing

Some of the long-time followers know I sent off a small first-batch of queries back in November/December after winning one of the Miss Snark's First Victim/Authoress' Secret Agent contests.

I sent 10, only 10 (to test the water). I'm aware that is an absurdly low number.

Then my querying dried up due to the high volume of family members dying, being rushed to hospital/emergency, and coming down with terrible illness/afflictions.

Querying was so far down on my list of concerns that I barely got excited each time I was asked for a full/partial, and it barely phased me when (ultimately) the story was rejected by every agent who made a request. I was pretty numb about the whole thing, which is why I didn't send out any more or make any kind of further effort. In truth, I nearly forgot about it entirely.

About two weeks ago (just as I learned another relative has a very short time to live), I heard back from the second-to-last agent who still has the full.

...and that one hit me kindof hard.

It was a personalized response (I got a couple of those, which was nice/flattering), and it clearly pointed out the single major thing I have always worried about with 'Simon's Oath'.

When I wrote the ending... I knew I liked it. I was also completely aware that probably, out of 10 readers, 9 of them would hate the ending.

Now, the problem with 'SO' isn't the ending itself, it's the character arc of one of the two main characters, Simon.

Y'know how, at the wrap-up of every story, the main character hits the lowest point, has a revelation (of sorts), and then climbs back up, even if it's only a few feet?

My story ends with Simon still flat on his face. Sure, there's the implication that things will work out better for him... but he never truly climbs to his feet and takes a step in the right direction. Which doesn't work in the world of YA. In adult fiction, it would have been fine.*

The ending fits with his character, and while I find it satisfying, I was already aware that it would be a difficult sell, because while Simon changes and grows as a character... it's not really a vertical growth. He sinks deeper with every choice he makes and then the rug is (essentially) pulled out from under him in the end. It's not quite Hans Christian Anderson where the matchstick girl dies in the cold and the little mermaid dissolves into bubbles, but it certainly leans closer to that than a Disney-fied 'everyone lived happily ever after' kind of ending.

It's not just a simple matter of re-writing the ending because the failure in the Simon's character arc to turn up at the end makes the wrap-up feel too fast, disrupts the expected ebb/flow of the story, and leaves somewhat of a bad taste from what I had hoped was a bitter-sweet end.

The question now is... what will I do with it? 'Cause it's not an easy fix. I'll probably have to tear apart/re-write the last 1/3 of the story, maybe more.

I don't even know if it's something I can fix on my own, because I know I'm not objective.

Has anyone else had a major problem like this with a story? Did you stick with it, or abandon it like a single sock that's lost it's mate and never looked back?

Any suggestions would be completely welcome/appreciated :)

*which is probably why another agent suggested I re-write the book with an adult audience in mind.


  1. Would it make sense to make it an adult book? Maybe if you can make one of the main characters an adult age. I remember the voice of that one felt more adult too. But would it work for your story at all?

    1. I think... thematically, it would totally work for an adult audience... but I don't want it to :)

      The thing is... Simon never chooses. That's the important distinction between it being more *adult* versus *YA*.

  2. This is a hard question to answer. If this is the story you want to tell, then bending to get it agented/published would be a tough one to swallow. At the same time, you want to bring it to the world, and likely need an agent to do that.

    Maybe this is the story that you save for when you've landed an agent and/or have been published. I've read that advice before... keep your first foray into publishing a relatively "safe" one, and then when you're published you have the luxury of telling stories that may not fit the mold.

    That being said, you obviously HAVE had interest in this book. I think re-writing at this point may be premature... there could be an agent around the corner who wants to be the one to risk it with your ending.

    I don't really understand the logic that this ending is OK for an adult audience but not for YA. YA books can have a literary bend, and not every one I've read has had a firmly resolved ending.

    Sorry, I probably haven't helped.

    Have you read The Giver by Lois Lowry? I have no idea about your story particulars, but the way she ended that story was brilliant. Half of the people who read it want to fling it across the room in frustration, tears streaming down their face, and the other half feel like dancing with joy, tears streaming down their face. Would it be possible to alter the ending just enough to make half of your readers happy, having the possible interpretations go either way?

    1. Hahaha, actually you really did help, so thank you :) Oddly enough, I literally finished reading 'The Giver' less than 10 minutes ago.

      Without having read it prior to today, yes, that is sort of a similar kind of 'leave-it-up-to-the-reader' ending, but again, the distinction is Jonas 'CHOOSES' to leave his colony, while Simon... gets his decisions made for him.

      Which is why it isn't really a simple manner to fix, because to change the ending, Simon has to make a choice earlier in the story, but with the way he's written (and what I love about him), that doesn't seem likely without some heavy thinking on my part :)

      Seriously, thank you very much :)

      ...too bad I honestly don't think anything that I write could be considered *safer* to land an agent ;)

  3. I have a CP looking over my manuscript and is finding things I didn't even notice, thank goodness, but nothing too major. It might take a while to get your head wrapped around the work you have to do, but once you start it'll get easier. That is if you decide to take the advice of the agent. Who is only one agent. If you feel very strongly about the way it is now, you should keep querying. It's such a personal and hard choice, I don't envy you. BTW, I'll definitely send my revamped query your way once I'm done.

    1. I think the reason I'm having such a hard time is 'cause I always knew the ending would be a problem. what I'm doing is rethinking how far I would go to change what I *believe* is the truth of this particular character.

      If I change it too much, I know I won't be satisfied, because I will feel that I have compromised Simon.

      I think... laying it to the side/keeping it tucked away in the back of my brain for now is the right thing to do, but I don't want to give up on it. I really believe in the the heart of this story.

      YES! I want to read your updated query!!!

  4. One thought: make the story longer, so the reader gets some hint of his moving forward? Or do a sequel -- though I honestly don't think the story needs one -- so the ending of the first is not considered a downer, per se.

    Or I can always throw in anti-fanfic ideas again ... :p

    1. NO FAN-FIC!!!

      Anything but that!!! No way is Faith magically getting better an hooking up with Simon in the end!!!

      THAT would definitely fall into the category of compromising the truth of the characters.

      I really do think it's simply a matter of re-working the last 1/3 of the story, and I think you and writeidea were right (which means, I was wrong... like a toddler throwing a tantrum in the candy aisle...) that 'the garden' shouldn't be the haven that it currently is. So.... plot reworking must happen.

      ...and oddly, I'm okay with that.

  5. I feel your pain, but I think it's great that you had so many requests from 10. I also find myself in a position when I don't know how to make the story better, at that point relying on agent feedback (if any) is helpful as I read through it again. And again. I've had over 100 rejection, but am still rewriting and submitting. Somehow I think you won't have to query that much, cause I know your stuff is great. Best of luck and keep going! :)

    1. I think, in retrospect, the title of this post insinuates too much... that I'm rethinking writing in general, when I was really only talking about rethinking a project I've already written.

      I think I just err on the side of being too cautious. I expect there to be mistakes, I expect there to be horrible errors. That is the main reason I only sent 10 in the first place.

      Maybe I still expect my writing to be bad, no matter how much effort/time I put into it.

      But y'know... that doesn't bother me. Because if I'm never satisfied, that means I'll always be striving for a higher goal.

      And yes, I will keep going :)

      Thank you, David :)

  6. I recently worked with Taryn from Teen Eyes - and she was wonderful, gave me some awesome insight.

    But it broke down to this:

    Characters - awesome
    Writing style - good, needs some clean up (as with every draft)
    Pacing - sweet
    Plot line - here's where you lose me.

    That was a huge blow, but I talked to her about it, in length. I realized she was right - and it frustrated me. I loved this story.

    But I realized also: This story was never meant to be just one book. I realized that the first books needs an antagonist, needs a resolution, needs the last part to happen about 20k words in...

    So 20k of my manuscript is now the beginning of my second manuscript...
    and I have to rewrite almost the entire first part to make one character an antagonist, and build up to the new ending (which I finally plotted).

    I can tell you, it's horrible to hear things like that. But in the end, I know this story is worth telling - and I know that I need to get the rewrite done, and get it out there.

    I don't think I'll ever abandon any of my writing - but I may go back and rewrite it again and again and again until it gets the attention that it deserves.

    1. You should never give up either.

      I started working on RUHE again (the one that got me noticed by Taryn in the Teen Eyes contest in the first place). And let me tell you: In less than a year, the strength of my writing has improved ten-fold. I'm rewriting huge chunks of that story that I previously thought didn't need work.

      If it's not working for you right now, but you have a "plan" in mind, maybe you can set it aside for a few months - once things get calmer in your life - then rework it and send it out when it is ready.


    2. Yeah, that's what I mean by, 'I don't know if I can do it 'cause I know I'm not objective'.

      I pretty much need a ruthless-outsider's perspective.

      And no, I'm not quitting writing ;)

      Thanks, Rachel :) I really appreciate your words of wisdom ;)


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