Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Publishing My Darlings

So anyway...

Lying in the sun on a rather cool afternoon in July, thinking about writing, thinking about trying to sell Abomination, thinking about my next project, thinking about getting ready for the school year to come and directing As You Like It and introducing a gradeless classroom, thinking about moving on to the final phase (organization and cleanup) of the home refinishing project, thinking about how bloody hard it is to find an agent...thinking that if I keep lying here thinking I might just think myself into a coma...

Seriously: too much is going on at once. I made a vow to myself to get Abomination sold this year, and everyone--all of my beta readers including the target audience--has had nothing but good things to say about it, but whenever I get it into the hands of an agent I don't find the right fit. And I keep trying, but everything has been a distraction.

The thing is, though, that I really believe in this book. I have been working on it for over a decade now, on and off. It has seen five full revisions, the latest of which involved a massive cut of 40,000 words and a complete point of view change. It terrified me, frankly, to do these things. Some of my readers told me not to, but I took the advice of a couple of agents: it was too long for the market and we needed to hear directly from Julie/Jonathan. OK: I took a deep breath, kept saying "kill your darlings" over and over again like a mantra, and wiped out scene after scene that I loved while shifting the entire book from a narrative that was mostly third person alternating with the first person commentary of Kristen to one that now is all first person, told from about seventeen different points of view at various times.

Getting each of them to sound like individual people was a pain in the butt, but I think I did it, and my readers agree. What I discovered as I did: the living souls behind my characters! Even more than I knew before, they leapt from the page for me. I gained empathy with characters I never had much empathy with before as I wrote their narratives in their voices. And since I was also shifting the book from past to present tense (hey, why not go nuts!), I also gained a sense of immediacy for each of them. It felt as if I could see the story unfold through each of their eyes.

That sounds awfully cheesy. And the characters I most desperately wanted to do this for I couldn't: to go into the heads of the "villains" of the piece would give away the mystery. But I think the reader gains so much more insight into so many others, including Jonathan/Julie herself.

All of this came at a cost, of course. There was a kick-ass Republican debate scene I had to cut entirely, for instance. That hurt. There was an entire subplot in the GOP candidate's HQ: gone. So too was a romantic subplot involving the teacher and the principal. Other things too, including a mysterious group plotting against Julie in the school. But I really think what remains makes the book better, and it needs to be read. I keep doing my research, hoping it will lead me to exactly the right agent. I have a few queries out right now.

All I can do is hope.

No comments: