So, remember when I said a while ago that the first draft of this whole YA suburban fantasy thing would probably come in at 60-65k? That was a complete and total lie.
I’m now creeping up on 65k, and while the end is definitely in sight, there’s still plenty more story to flesh out. The second draft is going to take some dedicated pruning.
The main character’s speech patterns are consistent in the sense that they tend to duplicate themselves to the point of redundancy, and there’s an obscene amount of expository dialogue that was really just me working out the plot. The good news is, the plot still—you know—exists. And yeah, the transitions are a disaster and some of the characters are still standing around waiting to be useful and I have no idea how to denouement the thing (if I can misappropriate the word denouement for a second), but these are issues that seem fixable. I haven’t spotted any of those pesky fundamental flaws yet. Which doesn’t mean they’re not there, but I think it means that if they are there, they’re not completely glaring.
What I’m trying to say is, I like it. I like the characters and the story and the way everything is interconnected and fairly compact. I won’t say that it’s as economical as I was shooting for, but I think it’s still the best thing I’ve written. Or maybe it just feels like that. It’s the first thing that’s come about entirely without me being in some form of school—the first truly independent thing I’ve written. Obviously, I still carry a lot of the academic stuff in my head, but without professorial feedback, and research papers and copyediting exercises and reader’s reports, it stays near the back. Just enough to tell me how to format an ellipsis and not so much that I hear my adviser demanding fewer fantastical elements and more in-depth exploration of Lilith’s marital relationship. Not so much that I constantly hear generic workshop-voice saying things like, so, when the skeleton key melts the doorknob, is that supposed to be a metaphor for something?
I’ve dismantled and restructured the beginning of my demon fantasy, based upon invaluable first-reader feedback and contest-critique (and completely edited out the non-metaphorical skeleton key). I’ve sent out my queries and my partials and all that, but I still have a nagging feeling that it isn’t enough. The point at which the manuscript actually gets good coincides directly with the real-time date of when I graduated from college. This is not a coincidence. I know it, but I don’t quite know how to salvage it. My quick-fix solution was to chop out as much of the pre-graduation stuff as was functionally possible, combine the remaining scenes as often as was plausible, and completely rewrite large portions of the dialogue. I’m unconvinced that it’s enough, but I’m a point where I feel like, okay, this as good as it’s going to get right now, so it’s time to move on to something else. I think I can objectively say that it’s not a bad book. Unfortunately, it still just kind of has a bad beginning.
Even so, the post-critique beginning is still infinitely stronger than the pre-critique one, and more than that, the agent feedback continues to reverberate. It’s funny, that critique was of the opening pages of a second draft of something specific and self-contained, but it’s had unexpected ramifications. Because she’s a stranger and a professional. Because she said nice, complimentary things that boosted my morale. But mostly because she said true things and they were the kind of structural comments that don’t just apply to that one manuscript. I keep thinking about that other story as I write this one. I keep seeing the pitfalls, the mistakes I made, and then going around. It may be too soon to tell, but right now, it seems like the feedback on that book has had the unexpected benefit of making this one better.