Monday, August 12, 2019

oil up the rodent wheel

I have just finished a book. Well, I have finished the first draft of said book, and am diving into the editing and rewriting process, banging my head against the wall and cursing humanity. As I get in deeper, doubts are starting to surface. My book is YA fiction--and it's 110K words. This I can fix, with skillful editing. But I don't think the story fits in less than 100K words, since I have multiple protagonists.

Yes. This is one of those books, and I need your advice.

I have no idea whether my book is good or not. I know that the bottom line is always quality, but things like word count and complexity definitely impact sales and chances of representation. I am passionate in this story, and I would love to get it published, but I know odds are slim. Am I shooting myself in the foot attempting to even get this published, much less as a debut novel? Can I even trust my own judgment that the story works how it is?

Here are my options, as I see them:

a) Edit the story down to be shorter and with fewer protagonists. No

b) Edit how much I think I need to, then trust the writing to hold the story. Yes

c) Stop worrying until I get opinions from the rest of the world, such as rejections letters or beta readers. Yes
d) Put the novel in my under-the-bed novel box and wait until I'm world-famous to publish it. No, NO. NO!

e) None, all, or some of the above? No

I know you can't magically tell how a book will do, but I'd love your professional input. Thanks.

No, I can't tell magically about how a book will do.
No one can.
Not even great agents and prescient editors.

Every book is acquired with high hopes.

Some find traction with readers.
A lot don't.

Not only is there no way to tell, there's NO PATTERN.
Long books with a multitude of characters can do just fine.
Simple books with fewer characters can tank.


And none of this is anything you can control. Write the story you want to write.
Then let it sit for a month.
Then go back and start revising.

In the month that you let it sit, READ.
The best way to learn about good writing is to read it.

Go read the books that librarians recommend. They have all sorts of list of Best of this, and Better of that.

The library is a writer's nuclear arsenal. With it you are powerful.
Without it, you're slinging arrows at random.

I know this isn't the answer you were looking for, but it is the answer.

PS  This question is a good sign you're on the right track. It means you're not one of the clueless folks who think golden prose falls from their pen; nary an edit nor revision needed.


CynthiaMc said...

Best of luck to you OP.

My current project is one that started out as an entry in the Florida Playwright's contest. They were looking for shorts, 1 location, few characters, easy to produce.

It outgrew that. By a lot. But that scene is still ultimately what this story is all about (though it's now a lot longer with a lot more characters).

The funny thing is, a lot of those characters were not planned. They basically showed up and said "Put me in, Coach! I want to play!" They all had their stories and I thought I might end up with a series.

Somewhere along the line I trusted them and now I'm to the point where I'm saying "That's why you're here. I get it now."

While they roll their eyes and go "Duh. Trying to help you out."

Will it ever get published?

Hope so.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

OP, I am at the edge of the cliff with my latest WIP - it's been 3 years in the writing/revising. I am doing one more beta read before jumping into the trenches just to be sure the story holds together as well as I think it does.

This is after abandoning a book four years back(for now) that did ok in the query trenches but could not find traction. It is scary. Those doubts are normal. Remember, only fools never doubt. Write the best story you can and go from there. Good luck.

LynnRodz said...

First of all, congrats, OP, on completing your 1st draft. Let me tell you this, even after you've edited and revised your story for the umpteenth time, you're still going to have doubts if what you've written is good enough. Even when you take that scary step and send your "finished" manuscript to beta readers, you're going to have doubts. And even after you've done everything possible to make it the best it can be, you'll find a better word, a better way to say something. It doesn't end, so the day you send your baby out to agents, it good enough?...will still be there. The doubts never leave, you just have to take that leap of faith and see what happens.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey OP.
The only place the rodent wheel will drive you is crazy. Ya know that kid's song, "The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round?"

Well it's a writer's theme song.

The journey is often long, bumpy and someone is always kicking the back of your seat. No matter. Enjoy the ride. You'll get there.

Timothy Lowe said...

Ah, OP. I share your pain a thousandfold. My latest WIP is just too freaking weird, but it's the best writing I've ever done. Now the wheel of worry ramps up. Is it implausible to have thirteen POV characters? Wise?

One more time spinning the revising wheel, then I've got to take my shot with it, see what my agent thinks.

So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow.

S.P. Bowers said...

I've been on a similar rodent wheel except my word count is only 75k and I'm worried no one will want it because it's short.

Elissa M said...

I've been debating asking the Shark my own question along these lines, so I'm very glad to see this one.

My novel, like many, has been years in the writing. I've done rewrites upon rewrites. Beta readers from published authors to librarians have given excellent feedback (which I've incorporated). It is finally in the home stretch, waiting on the very last bit of polish before querying. And, like the OP, my novel is too long--not so much for the genre, but for a debut.

My wheel was spinning about whether or not to query anyway. I have another (more appropriate length) novel started. I worried that querying to certain rejection would be demoralizing and sap energy needed for writing.

But now I don't feel that way. Let the rejections come. I have another novel in progress. The Shark tells me no one knows how a book will do, and deep down I've always known this. Querying and rejections are just part of being a writer.

NLiu said...

I have nothing to add to the wise words of others, OP, but I am getting out my pom-poms and cheering you on. Just so you know!

Laura Stegman said...

Liane Moriarty writes multi POV all the time (her latest, Nine Perfect Strangers, has at around 12), and she does just fine. It feels like every time I read about a "rule," I soon read a successful book that breaks it! Meanwhile, good luck to OP and all of us who are writing the books of our hearts, plus thanks to Janet for your always encouraging support!

JanR said...

Since Janet suggests reading, here are some books I've read recently with multiple POV characters. I liked best the ones where the characters had very different perspectives, so switching up the viewpoints opened up the world. Liked less the ones where all characters were always present in every scene, so the POV switches felt like they were getting in way of story rather than enhancing it.

Laura Ruby York: The Shadow Cipher (3)
Leigh Bardugo Six of Crows (5)
Margaret Peterson Haddix The Strangers (3)
Hatem Aly The Inquisitor's Tale or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (lost count)
Laini Taylor Strange the Dreamer (2)
Dawn Dumont Glass Beads (4)
Cinda Williams Chima The Demon King (2)

I can't help from writer perspective since nearly all mine are one POV. I do have one where there's one POV character in two timelines, so that's sort of two, and I'm finding it so tricky! I am in awe of Timothy Lowe doing 13! I am in awe of you doing any at all! and I agree completely with Janet - your worries mean you are a thoughtful person which means your book is much better than you worry :)

Lennon Faris said...

Multiple POV stories can be fascinating, if the different characters have distinctive voices. Different ways they see the world/ other people, different ways of talking in their heads.

Some books I've read, the only way you know the POV switched is the name at the beginning of the section. It may still be a good story, but at best, the technique doesn't add anything.

And OP, I am almost exactly in your shoes (except for the multiple POV). Best of luck in the query trenches!

Konnie Enos said...

First, I recently decided to put some effort into editing one of my WiP's. At one point I discovered it was over 92K which is way too long for the genre. I knew it had too many sub-stories. I deleted a few. While doing so I figured out I was being more verbose than necessary. I started trimming words, restating whole paragraphs to say the same thing with less words. I've trimmed about 11K so far. So it's possible.

That being said, I have another WIP that's super long, nearly 424K. It has multiple pov characters and many sub-plots, all of which I can't (won't) cut from the story. Even deleting unneeded words is not going to bring it down to 80K, or even 100K since it is sci-fi. Doesn't mean I'm going to delete any part of it or assume it won't sell. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but it's sure satisfying crafting such a wonderful tale.

ashland said...

I'm there with you, OP. My YA is going to be 105-110k once revised and I'm worried that's too much for a debut. It has 9 POVs and none of the characters can be cut so I'm hoping I can trim each of their sections down enough to make it work. But I've already decided: it'll be sent at whatever word count it ends up at, even if on the high end. If the writing and story doesn't speak for itself, then so be it. Hopefully you can find a little consolation that a lot of us are going through the same. Good luck.

J.A. Haigh said...

Timothy Lowe....

'...glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens.'

LOVE that poem!

Timothy Lowe said...

Me too. Also, Ogden Nash:

The cow
Is of the bovine ilk
One end is moo
The other, milk.

Craig F said...

Get a first edit in and then get other eyes on it. Be sure to ask about your POV characters. When I was doing a critique group I saw several that would not pass muster. Especially for YA, where voice is the key.

I think that any decent book should have at least three POVs, anyway. There has to be some sort of conflict to power a plot and those conflicts always have at least two POVs.

I have eaten the plums

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

"It means you're not one of the clueless folks who think golden prose falls from their pen; nary an edit nor revision needed."

OH like Anne Rice? (and is she actually getting away with that, or no?)