This is the actual view out my office window this afternoon. Pretty, isn’t it? The sun is shining, there’s hardly a cloud in the sky, and there are robins everywhere I look. Two weeks ago, Boise hit a daytime high of 61 degrees. It was wonderful while it lasted, but only a false promise. Today, we’ll be lucky if we see 28. In fact, after just a two-block walk this morning with the dogs, I had to turn back – temps were in single digits, and my forehead was freezing. Even now, I look outside, and the air is clear and bright with sunshine, but there’s no way I’m going out there again today. I’m knee-deep into editing another revision of the FATE manuscript.
In January, I was certain that the FATE manuscript was in final form; I sent out the first wave of query letters to agents. Then, a week before the conference, I got a call (!) from one of the agents I’d queried; she gave me some specific, extremely helpful suggestions for improvement. This is great, I thought; I can do it, no problem. So I made the changes and sat down with a free-lance editor in the “Ask a Pro” session at the SFWC and asked her to take a quick look at my first page. She immediately pointed out that I’d neglected to indicate the sex of my protagonist (the slap on my forehead was heard for miles. Yep, that was me). By the end of the three minute session, she had pointed out numerous glaring problems with afore-mentioned first page, none of which were the same elements that the agent had mentioned. Doh.
So this week, I went back to hitting the books again. I think I figured out (at least part of the problem). In my zeal to start my story as late as possible (and get to the good parts right away), I broke (at least) one of the cardinal sins of fiction: FICTION EVOKES EMOTION. I’d cut out a lot of characterization of the protagonist early on, in favor of action. Action is all well and good, but you can’t do that at the expense of revealing your protagonist as a sympathetic and likable character. If your readers don’t find your characters interesting enough from the very beginning, you can be sure they are not going to wait around for them to warm up. You need character AND action to engage the reader and propel the story. I had to slow down and really think about what my character was going through and pay attention to what she was thinking, feeling, and emoting. It took me five days to rewrite the opening scene with (what I hope will be) deeper characterization of the protagonist. I’m still feeling my way along, and it may not be perfect yet, but I think its better. I may be in the deep freeze now, but spring is just around the corner.
Great post, love to hear how the process is going. And how wonderful that an agent liked it enough to give you specific feedback!! That’s great!!
And hey, Thanks so much for your comment on my blog. I responded there and I’ll do the same here with:
You should pitch your fabulous mss to Elizabeth Pomada on Pitch U, cuz she takes Adult fantasy/paranormal, and she’s one of the nicest agents I’ve met (met her at the East of Eden conf. in Salinas, Ca in 2008.)