Finished! / Not Finished

The good part: I finished revising The Obsessive WIP last night, yay! For those of you who find this sort of thing interesting: I cut 170 pages from the original manuscript and added about 150 pages. It’s standing at 590 pages now, let me see, about 197,000 words. I could cut it more, but I have no major desire to delete anything at this point. We’ll see.

Do I like it better now? I don’t know, maybe, kind of? I like some things better, but I’m sorry to lose some of the scenes I cut, but those scenes did slow down the forward progress of the novel, so I don’t know. Some secondary characters are now a little more developed, which I like, and some stepped farther into the background or even vanished, which I guess is okay.

Agent’s best advice: The protagonist needs to be more central to the action in the last climactic battle. That was true. Plus the essential thing to do was clear immediately, always helpful in revision.  (Make the protagonist confront his worst fear.) I did that, and still managed to save a lot of the last climactic battle. 

The next thing is . . . my agent also suggested making the secondary protagonist a woman. I will try that and see how it works, because phrases like “more commercial” are persuasive even though I’m not super keen on the switch. As a man, this character is complicated and, it turns out, surprisingly feminine. That femininity immediately becomes both obvious and stereotypical if I change him into a woman. That, I don’t like at all, especially because it makes the male protagonist instantly look more stereotypically male as well. I’m considering ways to prevent this. One method has occurred to me, but I don’t necessarily like it and I’m not sure it would work anyway. I may try a couple of different things.

The less-good part: Not a disaster, but I definitely won’t be bringing Door Into Light out this year. It’s too late to do it before Christmas, and immediately after Christmas strikes me as a terrible time to bring out anything. The cover artist is behind due to, I believe, circumstances beyond her control, and I am taking this as a sign that I have plenty of time for one more round of copy edits. Did you know how easy it is to spell “soldier” as “solider”? And of course spell check won’t catch that. Going over it again won’t hurt, and anyway —

Just a note, but KDP is possibly having issues with printing paperbacks. The file I loaded is fine, but the proof copy they sent me this time has repeated chapter 17. I need to make sure KDP is printing accurate copies before hitting the go button and I don’t have time to deal with that right now, so —

The bottom line is, I’m looking at next year for Door Into Light. But earlyish next year! I will let you all know how that progresses.

Meanwhile: I have the last part of the revision to do for my Other WIP. If I can ONLY get ALL revisions finished BEFORE Christmas Break, I can take a stab at writing the 4th Black Dog novel, Copper Mountain, over Christmas Break. 

Realistically, that won’t happen. Christmas Break starts on the 15th, or on the 14th if I happen to decide to take off Friday, and so there’s just no possible way. But I have every hope I can get all revisions finished before January 1, which would give me two weeks of the break left to take a stab at getting Copper Mountain at least moving….

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9 thoughts on “Finished! / Not Finished”

  1. I’m a bit disapppointed to hear the agent’s second recommendation; of course one reason I love your books is because you always have excellent central female characters, but I was really looking forward to seeing what you would do with two complicated male protagonists. (A male protagonist who isn’t stereotypically masculine sounded even more interesting.) I know you’ll make the decision that works best for you and best for the book, but I’ll be over here quietly hoping. :)

  2. You’re the author and it’s your choice… however, since you brought it up I’ll take that as a chance to remark thusly:
    I’d rather read two interesting characters of the same sex having complicated nonsexual interactions than opposites falling into the same old same old. There isn’t enough respect and friendship fiction out there.
    (for any combination of sexes, actually.)
    Still, do what’s right for the book and the characters as you understand them.

    Disappointed about Door but will wait patiently.

  3. Agree with others. There is certainly room for a bit of market differentiation here. I am reminded of the apparent requirement that UF writers either be seen as female, like M L N Hanover aka Daniel Abraham.

  4. There’s a reason (or a whole lot of subliminal reasons) why you made your secondary protagonist a man and without even knowing a thing about your WIP I would much rather read about a complicated male character especially if he is not gay. I only say that because “feminine” traits in a man is stereotypically associated with being gay. Making the character a woman may be “more commercial” but you are the one who has to decide whether it is worth straying into stereotype.

  5. I too echo the caution. It’s not as if you automatically write your heroes as male and need to be reminded that nowadays women need to be included- you’ve written plenty of strong female protagonists too. So I agree with Kootch: you wrote them this way for a reason.
    If the agent’s advice is caused by some part of the American audience having such a strong anti-gay phobia that a man with a feminine side, or two complicated male leads having an unstereotypical friendship, would scare them off buying the book, then I’d expect that demographic not to be part of your usual target audience anyway.
    Your books are speculative fiction, not rehashed stereotypes, so people who do not want to encounter new ideas would generally not be drawn to them anyway.

    Though I enjoy some romance, I also agree with Elaine: I’d love to read more books based in friendships instead of finding one’s partner.
    I’d also like more books with a solidly happy, settled (older) couple in the lead – those dynamics are different, not a source of narrative tension but instead could be a source of stability, and I’d like to see more of that. The Jill Paton Walsh sequels to the “Lord Peter Wimsey” books by Dorothy Sayers had some of that; if anyone here knows more books with that dynamic, I’d love to hear about them.

  6. Thanks for your input, everyone!

    The character is question is not a gay man — something else I actually did consider. It simply became immediately apparent when I considered switching him to a woman that he has certain traits that are stereotypically feminine (as well as one personality trait that is definitely stereotypically male and would be unusual and interesting in a female character). I hadn’t realized this until I thought about the character in terms of this gender switch and then it absolutely leaped out at me.

    I’m pretty sure my agent is not thinking about the reading public; by “more commercial” she is probably reading the minds of acquiring editors, who are the ones who try to read the minds of readers; and/or predict how marketing trends and popularity would influence editors and how they would feel those trends would influence buyers. It may not be apparent to you all that trends right now are toward (a) increasingly fast-paced novels, (b) emotionality and angst in every possible relationship, (c) romance included as central in every possible book. In other words, all epic fantasy is increasingly being pushed by YA trends and, importantly, by what is perceived as desired by YA readers, no matter that of course YA readers are not a uniform population with uniform tastes.

    The question isn’t: would some readers love an emphasis on a different kind of nonsexual relationship? The answer there is certainly Yes and everyone, probably, knows that. The question is: what gives a book the best chance to really break out? And what do acquiring editors think the answer is to that question?

    For me, it is just a matter of practicality to decide that a largish advance is worth a certain amount of compromise. If I could expect my income from self-publishing to equal that kind of income, that wouldn’t be a consideration, but in this actual world, at this time, well . . . it’s a consideration.

    It’s true that I considered different genders right up front before beginning the story at all, when playing in my head with that opening scene; and yes, I did choose to go with both male protagonists because that’s what worked best in my head. But it’s also true that I’m pretty sure I could make this story work whichever gender the one protagonist has. I have a fairly clever (well, I think it’s clever) way that I might make that work in a somewhat unusual way.

    But given all your feedback, I’m also inclined to send the manuscript as-is to Caitlin and see if she thinks it might fly with two male protagonists. I have the other WIP almost read to send to her and maybe, with two manuscripts to shop around, one with a little romance in it, well, who knows. But she’s the one who knows what acquiring editors more likely want to see and I respect her judgment.

  7. The regular readers on your blog are probably a self-selecting group and guaranteed to buy whatever you write anyway. So, understand the need to aim at a wider audience!

    Granted I would be SUPER interested in a conquering barbarian warlady who is horrified at the barbaric behavior of the folks she’s conquering…

  8. Thanks, Mary Beth! I hope you will all like this one as much as I do, however it eventually gets published or with which version of the protagonists.

    The reader may find her opinion of which, if either (any) people in the story are barbarians changing as time goes by…

  9. Kathryn McConaughy

    My writers’ group self-published seven stories in October and four of us are having trouble with KDP… mostly with text printing at a slant on random pages. The admin folks at KDP says that everything is fine on their end, yet the problem continues.
    I would also be in favor of having two male main characters. But a male-female pairing without a romance would be fun too!

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