I mentioned earlier that my current main writing project is rehashing a novel I completed a few years ago. Thinking it was done 5 years ago, I sent the story out to a handful of agents and got a less-than-enthusiastic response. Tepid is even too strong of a word. “Practically nonexistant” probably best describes the replies I received.
Frustrated, and also feeling like I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing, I pushed this story aside, started work on the novel for whom I’m currently searching for a home, and enrolled in my MFA program. While I did use the first couple chapters of this old MS to get into my program, I haven’t touched it in years.
As things tend to do, this story haunted me, and when it came to be too much I copied the thing into Scrivener, opened split screen, and started retyping the story. I’m just about done with my initial go-through, and I am proud of what I’ve managed to cut and alter. But I am disappointed, and sometimes horrified, at what I dared to send out to agents even a few years ago. Some are big things I might not have noticed that time and a bit of schooling have helped me notice. Others…I don’t even know. Here are a few of the problems:
- Slow Plot. It takes a while for things to get truly interesting. Which is why most of my big cuts take place in the first third of the book. It’s no wonder I never got any personalized email responses, the agents probably slept through my sample pages.
- Whiny MC. I wanted my main character to have some realistic 11-year-old life issues, but I really overdid the last time and she turned into a real Debbie Downer. A bunch of that got cut, too.
- Distant MC. It took me two years of Lesley to figure out that this was my problem and how to fix it, so it’s no surprise that an old MS was practically disease-ridden with distance.
- Lengthy Conversations. I still gotta cut some of these down, even at my ending. It’s kind of a bummer when you realize you said the same thing three times in rapid succession.
- Passive voice. This thing is chock full of it, and it probably bleeds back into my distance issue.
- Overuse of words/descriptions. Everyone is snarling, like, constantly. And I think I used the word “just” about 4 million times.
- Typos. Oh my god! The typos I left in there! Forgotten quotations, misspelled words, inconsistent apostrophe use. Did I even proofread this thing before I sent it out? I can’t even remember now.
Really, this is a great case for giving yourself time and distance before you dive into edits. Hopefully I’ve learned enough now that I won’t have to wait it out for half a decade before going back to something. Also, get a bunch of critique partners to read it before you send it out, seriously.