Belatedly following on from my last publishing post, about how I met an agent willing to give me and my novel a chance, it’s time I updated on what happened next.
So, after our feedback meeting, Suresh gave me a couple of big plot points and changes to think about:
- Maybe cut a character (I’m thinking: I already cut one, aaah!)
- Act One could be shorter
- Your antagonists are blatantly villains, develop their motives
- The world state of affairs is interesting: give us more
I’ll start with the villains. In the first draft, I had feedback saying they were too nice and their reveal felt too insubstantial. The revised draft I sent to Suresh ended up going the complete other way. “They can’t get any worse,” he said, “without turning into Cruella De’Vil.” And it was hard, really hard, to think what my antagonists could want enough to let someone, potentially, stay mortally wounded without being total assholes for it.
But Suresh told me to come up with three possible scenarios as “writers tend to latch onto the first idea.” Well, I came up with three and liked all three, so he’s not wrong. We spoke over the phone a week later to discuss the ideas, and he reeled me back under control when I said “I mean hey all three could work together.” We picked the last idea I’d come up with.
I spent another two weeks agonising over the finer details: short of drugs and guns what is dodgy and dangerous and corrupts good people? Because I’m bored of drugs and gun crime antagonists. In the end, my partner of crime, Mitch K Allan, jokingly suggested ‘diamonds’. I could’ve kissed her.
I spent time refining and researching, developing my antagonists to fulfil the necessary elements my plot was missing. As I get tongue-tied pretty easily when talking about my own ideas, I wrote Suresh a mini-treatment. When we called, I cleared up his questions again, and he felt satisfied things were going in the right direction.
As for exploring more of the world beyond my characters, that was pretty easy. I already had all the information—and as much as I’m bad at science, I am fascinated by it. I had plenty to pull out the bag about my futuristic setting, my main problem is that I don’t like exposition. I like flow. I like focus. I like plot, plot, plot. And a bit of metaphor. So, I wrote down all the exposition I didn’t want in the novel. Having now seen it all written out clearly, I actually feel better about dropping more into the novel. It’s an old writing trick I should have started with, but what can I say? This was a NaNoWriMo novel, it could’ve been a bigger mess!
Next step: time to write.
I’ve been working on implementing changes for the past four weeks. Last week, I’d finally reached page 83 of 240 when I had a new idea during my day job. I had to go all the way back to chapter two. But this new idea means I’ve cut 30 pages from the beginning and I feel it’s been a big improvement. I’ve even cut the presence of one character.
It’s all going great, but my deadline is November 1st, so I’m starting to feel the pressure. But there’s nothing like a bit of fear to motivate a writer.