Thursday, January 10, 2008

Troubled Waters Update

I've rewritten the first chapter of Troubled_Waters. This is the only rewriting I'm planning to do at the moment. I've considered some heavy editing in a couple of early sections, but I haven't made my mind up yet. The concern there is that I've had comments from a couple of people that it starts out slow. I've guess I've got to decide what's relevant back story, what's texture, what's character development and what's not.

I've been insecure about the first chapter for a while. While the short story writer/poet prefers to make use of the "less is more" philosophy, I may have over-extended that approach in this case. As I understand it, the reader/agent needs to know what the book is going to be about by the end of the first chapter (1st page if possible). I'm not sure I completely agree, but a strong sense of direction doesn't hurt and I've just not been sure the chat-speak quite delivered that. The only other thing that's concerned me is starting the book out with a character we're never going to be seen again (cause the villain kills them on the second page). Somewhere along the way I heard this was a bad idea, that people tend to assume that the first character they meet is the MC and it disappoints them if you kill that character pretty much immediately and they won't read on.

However I've observed that writers sometimes open their books with a murder scene and I've admired the device. I've done a lot of this kind of reading in the last few years and can't always keep the who's who straight, but I believe I first saw it in a Patterson book. It creates instant tension and quickly establishes that BAD STUFF IS GOING TO HAPPEN to the people in this book. So I think that issue will stand.

Query letters to agents are written. I'll pick up a black ink cartridge today.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mary this, of course, is just a suggestion but - from all the reading and researching that I've done on novel writing and publishing - you should be working on your next novel while you're submitting the one you've just finished. You can rewrite the completed novel but only on the suggestions of those with the power to see it published -i.e editors and agents.

There are always exception to the rule (and I hope you are one) but in general most new novelists write
three novels before they write one that is of publishabble standard. (I believe this is the third novel you've written) But even the fourth
novel that is publishable still usually goes through another year of editing and preparation before it's released to the public.
Often, a novelist first publishes the fourth novel she's written and
THEN publishes the second and third novel. The first novel is usually crap and is not published unless the novelist become really famous.

best of luck


Mary O. Paddock said...

Thanks David.

Unknown said...

Hi Mary. After spending the last week furiously tweaking every sentence of the first fifty pages of my manuscript because my dream agent requested a partial, I've sworn to never send another query letter until my story is the best I can possibly make it. That way, the next time an agent asks for sample material, I don't have to suffer that 'it's not good enough yet' panic.

Something to consider as you get ready to send yours.

Just out of curiosity, where did you find all these great beta-readers?

Mary O. Paddock said...

Congrats CD! Let me know what the agent's response is, will you?

Thanks for the thought and you're right. In my case, if I wait until the story is "perfect" I will never move on this. My remaining concern was put to rest by a beta reader last week who caught the last of the typos for me. I have recently added one more small detail to the MC's background that will solidify an important aspect of her character. Other than that, I'm done. I have no plans to continue altering the manuscript unless I receive something from an agent that states that flaws in the plotline are the reason for his rejection.

Which brings me to your next question:My beta readers are truly generous friends who want to see me succeed. One of those friends drew on his friends (Thank you Dennis)and, in some respects, their take on the story were the most useful so far, as these are people who don't have any kind of stake in hurting my feelings. I've learned something valuable this time--beta readers who are writers themselves are important, but beta readers who are simply people who love to read are invaluable as they are your target audience.

So if you're struggling to find beta readers--look to your friends and co-workers who simply like to read.