Scary Stuff


Last year on Halloween, I received the second round of feedback from the editor on my current project, A BLACK WATER SEASON.  She’d read the first 100 pages back in the spring, and, in a nutshell, hated them.  So, I had to start the story over and when I did, I changed it by telling it from a different POV, as well as shifting to a dual narrative. I sent her the brand new sample pages and waited.  They came back about ten days later – with a thumbs up – and I recall telling her I was glad I’d received a treat – not a trick.  It was Halloween, after all.

Of course, all of you know by now, the project is finished.  You know that it received wonderful praise from a focus group of test readers out of Book-Hive.  I received Author Of The Month as it was their highest ranked manuscript in August.

What you don’t know is the editor did not like certain things about the story, and did not like it enough to have me send it straight away to my agent.  She said the characters were “miserable.”  She felt I had too much internal monologue going on with my protagonist and antagonist.  She felt there should be more shared with regards to the sheriff, Wade Malone.  And last, and worst of all, she said the story was too slow.

A lot of her feedback conflicted directly with the group of Test Readers.

When Jennifer Bowen of Book-Hive asked what the editor thought and I shared her feedback, she said, “Hmmm, well, maybe this wasn’t the story for this particular editor.”

I loved that.  Still, I was faced with this new dilemma.  With such differing opinions, what should I do with the story?

This was certainly a bit of a conundrum and the decision as to what changes I needed to make had me stalled for a while.  Eventually, I cut some, (not all) of the internal monologue.  Enough to satisfy my guilt over not taking everything the editor said to task.  I then added in a couple of new scenes between Ruby/Haskell and Wade/Ruby based on the Book-Hive feedback.  I tweaked the ending which was all of my own doing.

What has continued to pester me though is that one big thing the editor suggested I do – and didn’t.  And that was to add that new POV narrative with the sheriff.  This would have been a major re-write.  It would have destroyed the structure of the story where, for the majority of the book, each chapter picks up where the other leaves off between my good guy (girl) and bad guy. Think maybe “duel” instead of “dual” narrative.

The other thing too, was, I hadn’t set out to write a crime novel.  The story wasn’t about the investigation.  It wasn’t as if I ignored the investigative tasks altogether.  I actually had a Raleigh City police K9 detective who answered some of my questions about what a law enforcement person could or couldn’t do.  I wrote about the sheriff’s initial interview with my protagonist.  I detailed his interactions with my antagonist, and mostly, I showed his “work” on the “case,” with his interrogations via dialogue – twice with the antagonist and twice with the protagonist.

Still, if you’re like me, you begin to question every choice made about revisions once it’s out of your hands.  Did I do the right thing?  Should I have worked on it more, maybe written in that extra POV, if for not for any other reason than just to see if his voice would come through?

It’s scary stuff.  Scary because it seems as if we’re always second guessing ourselves, asking the what if’s and what about’s once we let it go.  It’s scary because we follow some advice while ignoring the rest, all the while not knowing if what we’ve ignored was spot on.

S.C.A.R.Y.

What do you do when you’ve had such diverse opinions?

Bad Moon Rising

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15 Comments

Let’s say you are selling your house. You hire a stager. She goes from room to room offering suggestions for changing and rearranging. You do a lot of what she says but regarding a few things, you know, I mean YOU KNOW, the kitchen counter is just right and the color of the bathroom is perfect, not just because you like it but because it suits the period of the home and the look and feel of the house. She keeps telling you it isn’t perfect and you get frustrated.
Well my dear.
It’s time to call in the realtor because the realtor is the one selling your house not the stager.
Time to send your book to your agent. Listen to the agent and if your gut is telling you that blue in the bathroom is perfect STICK WITH BLUE. There are other agents, other stagers. You’ve had a lot of readers/lookers nosing around your digs, go with what they say.

A side note. I know your editor helped you get your agent. Is your editor too focused on what she thinks that one agent is looking for?

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    A stager… honestly I don’t know that I’d have the patience for someone flitting through my house offering up ways to make it “better.” Especially after we’ve worked for years to update/remodel.

    Hmmm. Maybe that’s a subliminal message to Moi.

    It’s with the agent and has been for a couple weeks, i.e. my comments about “letting it go.” Which is also why I’m nitpicking over what changes I did make,- of course! 🙂

    When I worked with the editor on the agent thing, the story that got me a contract is a complete 180 from this story, and what he sells the most of, so, I can’t really say she read it with his likes/dislikes in mind necessarily. It might have just been her personal tastes. When she said my characters were miserable, I actually laughed out loud and said “Great! That’s what I wanted!” Sort of. I mean, I didn’t make them out as wallowing in puddles of tears, and wailing and tearing their hair out, or throwing themselves about like drunken, psychotic looney tunes. The story is dark, yes, yet to me, it’s realistic. It’s how any of us might act under similar circumstances.

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      You know, after reading what you have said in your posts about the story, and comments elsewhere about the process, Averil and Janet, I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I wish you so much luck. My God girl you have worked hard on this thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      Here’s where I go “aw shucks,” and with my head hanging down, scrape my toe around on the floor. Thank you for that, and all I can say is I have no clue if he’ll like it or not – and even if he does, it’s still a big hill to climb yet. One tiny boost is the fact he loved the first 100 pages of the second start. All I can hope is that I didn’t derail completely after that. XO

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Can’t wait to pick it up. (Kindle?) Congrats on your perseverance, and the wisdom to trust yourself. Out here rooting for you in France. Cheers Hank

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    Bonjour Frenchie! (Can I call you that?)

    It’s not available “yet.” I say “yet” because I hope it’s going to go on submission – that is, if the agent likes it, or even if it needs some more revisions given his feedback. Ultimately…ultimately the hope is submission and…a sale!

    Thanks so much for being who you are. I’ve always appreciated you and your writing, and so your support is important to me. I’ve got your back here in NC. Btw -brilliant FF story – told with your usual wit. LOVED it!

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I have no idea because I’m not published yet! I have beta readers, of course, but I have the luxury of ignoring them if I don’t like their advice. That doesn’t happen often. I use these people as my beta readers for a reason–normally they have a great eye for what works and what doesn’t. Good luck with your revisions. I agree, it’s scary stuff!

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It’s really neat that you got information from a K9 detective (says the dog nerd)! I…well, I don’t have many people who read for me, and/or who offer much of what could be considered deep and/or constructive criticism. So I actually yearn for this kind of a problem. I never know if somebody doesn’t “get” something because it’s something which works on my head but i haven’t brought it fully to the page, or because they just, factually, don’t know what I’m talking about.

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    Yeah, he was really nice and very thorough/thoughtful with his help. I was amazed at how hard it is to bring a case against someone. And then, I watch a lot of that ID channel too – as well as those shows called The First Forty Eight. If the police don’t find the killer within the first forty eight hours, it gets really hard. Sometimes they have the suspect right there, and KNOW he’s the guy, but can’t charge him b/c they don’t have enough hard core info.

    In the beginning, I didn’t have many people reading for me either. It;s very hard to find objective people b/c no matter what, if they know you, I feel like they are hesitant to point out what sucks – you know?

    Have you considered a freelance editor? Some of them can be expensive, but…, there are some who are really reasonable. It’s a matter of finding them. I wish I could refer you to the editor I used – she was VERY reasonable but has since retired to focus on her own writing.

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I’ve had this happen too, and it is frustrating because we seem to default to “everyone is right but me.” I’ve gotten so I have calloused over that reaction, and take some, discard other feedback. It seems to help most if I have some personal knowledge of or relationship with the source, but that doesn’t exclude agents I’ve never met and so on. It’s a gut thing – if feedback resonates, if it sticks with me, I heed it. If not, I feel free to disregard.

Talk about scary? TRUSTING YOURSELF! 🙂 Happy Hallowe’en …

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    That’s it exactly. And the fact of being too close to the story. I put it away for a while – while I waited for the input. And while I left it along, the odd thing is, I thought about writing in that other POV before it was suggested. And then, I thought, “no, that ruins the structure of what I’m trying to do.” Maybe I’ll lean towards three’s a charm. One more person saying “it’s needs to have it” = major re-write.

    I agree too, with your comment about “if feedback resonates, if it sticks with me, I heed it. Maybe my obstinance over that change is simply my way of knowing, “no, it’s not right for the story.”

    Sidebar – I started to not give out candy last night b/c of a couple bad incidents last year (rudeness and BIG kids coming up with grocery bags, and not in any costume) but I did. And I’m glad. All the kids were SO polite and SO cute!

    Happy Halloween indeed!

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Excellent! I have the exact same question. I hear varying bits of advice and I am nervous to make the wrong decision. I’m eager to see what the rest of your comments are…

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    Hi Seanna,

    On top of scary, it’s downright nerve wracking, isn’t it? I’m eager to see other opinions too. I think most people will say (think) that we, as the writers of the story ought to know what’s “feels” right. I don’t know why, in this particular instance, why I was so obstinate about not writing in the other POV. Only time will tell if I made the right decision, and if not, well. There’s always the choice of another revision. (yay)

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      Oh no, no, no… no yays! I am still revising after changing from third to first. It messed up one of my favorite scenes – alas, I had to kill my little darling. 😦
      But honestly… I think it is a better “read” now, in my *current* opinion. ha ha Hope you get lots of comments on this blog post. It’s part of my learning process (as are all the revisions). Thank you for posting.

      Liked by 1 person

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