Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Facing an Overdone Manuscript

I'm a day late on this... erm... sorry about that.

I am facing an edit on something that has been edited too many times already... there are things I wish I'd never done than need undoing, but also things I did that desperately NEED doing, so going through side by side copies is a little rough. Not only that, but there are a few NEW things I really feel like I need to work in (query sent last Friday notwithstanding).

So what are the BIG things?

Point of View

I wrote this originally in 3rd person (3 points of view) then for the ABNA changed ONE of those to first person (my main character, the ghost, Helen). Then my agent thought I should just stick to ONE PoV.

On rereading... I don't like it in first person. This rose out of a debate I ran into on a NaNoWriMo discussion thread on Facebook... and my OWN freaking answer of all the dumb things:
“Depends: is this a character who would narrate their own story?”

Look at that. Aren't I smart?

The trouble is HELEN IS NOT. She is timid like crazy—disoriented when she has to face the world as it is in 2012 compared to the one she died in in1962... She would not be TELLING her story in so direct away. Never mind that most YA is first person. It doesn't work for Helen.

Everyone has a different part of the story
The OTHER Points of View

Allan is a teacher. I GET why I was advised to drop him, though I am going to have to read carefully because I think there is a lot of information that is much clunkier, but no less necessary to the story, if HE isn't there to learn stuff.

Serena on the other hand... she is arguable the best part of my ABNA version... dropping her was a mistake. I am NOT going to stick to one PoV. So there. I will have to think about Allan. But Serena is in... and I'm thinking I may add the PoV of one of the bad guys. A lot of work, but I think getting some scenes from a bully would be interesting. Also... when Serena was in the first time, she could SEE Helen... later versions she could NOT... I think THIS change was good, so I can't just add her scenes back in. I will need to rewrite.

Big Subplot Clarity

I have some illegal clinical trials going on here... but I think the book needs another iteration of me clarifying this for YA language, rather than “works in research” language. I think it may go over some heads. Though this was on an earlier list, so maybe I got it... I haven't faced this book since 2012.

My BIGGEST Thing though...

I really need to give Helen a bit more spark, and unlike MOST of my MCs, humor is a pretty small part of it. She is dead, timid, and living in a home for juvenile delinquents... The humor a tougher or more cynical character might find in the situation is not hers. But timid, on its own, isn't all that compelling. I need to find her point of connection. I think maybe it's her humanity, in spite of being dead and all... but how do I make the reader feel that?

How about you guys? You ever face a book after YEARS? One that had had MANY iterations? (the latest on this says 12). Any tricks you want to share? Successes? Lessons learned?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a lot to change, but you have to go with your gut on what works best.
My latest has only one point of view. But I don't like first person, so it's in third. Hopefully that was a wise choice.

Diana Wilder said...

I am working on one that I started in 1988 and let lie fallow for nearly twenty years. It stayed on the back shelf even after I started fiddling with it again. The MC started out as a man in his late 50's, hard childhood, rose above it, but lacked polish. The character changed over the iterations, especially in the past two years. The first part of the series is published and I'm working on the others - and wouldn't ya know, I just ran smack into a scene where instead of the mid-forties, polished and very complex fellow, I am dealing with the late fifties not-so-confident man. Made me do a double-take. But I can see where I've grown in my craft, so I guess it's a good thing. ...right?

mshatch said...

"I need to find her point of connection. I think maybe it's her humanity, in spite of being dead and all... but how do I make the reader feel that?"

Maybe while she's in the facility she'll befriend someone that can showcase her humanity?

Good luck editing.

Chrys Fey said...

How odd...I recently sent a story to my editor about a ghost. I first wrote it in first person, but then she wanted me to change it to third person. Then I had to change her from a teen to an adult. That was a big change!

Joss said...

Oh, I hate it then when this happens. You have a lot to do but just keep imagining how great you are gonna feel when your baby is out there and people are raving about it :) Stay positive xxx

dolorah said...

Sounds like a complex story concept. When I get in these PoV quandries I spend a lot of time re-writing situations from the wrong pov, just to see if I can work through the blocks. Once I'm in the character's head, or seeing them clearer through another's eyes, I can edit in the proper perspective. Might not work so well with the ghost aspect.

Just my own perspective - I don't read YA or MG much - but I find in a lot of YA authors (or maybe its editors and agents) don't consider a true adult perspective essential to story. As if teens and children never care about adult influences in their lives. But I think mentors and caring/concerned adults are important to young people, even when the kids proclaim not to listen to their advice. If the teacher is a good influence, then perhaps he is important, even if his scenes are minor. Just my adult opinion though.

Have you read The Lovely Bones? I forget all the names, but it was written from the dead girl's first person PoV, included some scenes from the murder's third person perspective, and 3rd PoV from others (adults, guilt ridden sister, investigating detective). The dead girl, Susie, I think, is a passive ghost, timid and a bit whiny. She has only one strong passion: bringing her murderer to justice. It is this passion that allows her to occassionally influence the living world, sometimes manifesting physically or being able to move objects to let her presence be known. The strength of her connection to the person is what gives her character strength, through the actions of the people she is trying to influence. Does all that make sense? Sound like what you are trying to do with your ghost?

Good luck Hart. You are in a tough editing situation.

Andrew Leon said...

Not exactly that, but I will have something that will be an interesting study in perspective coming up... at some point.

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

That seems so daunting laid out like that. I wish you luck. Don't pull out all your hair.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've always used two POV's. It just seems natural. If two works better for yours, then that's what you should do.

Denise Covey said...

POV is tricky. I was interested where you said Helen is not someone who would narrate her own story. Hmm. Whatever the 'writing rules' about POV, I must admit over the holidays I had a lot of reading time and I thoroughly enjoyed reading some stories which wallowed in the Third Person Omniscient POV and it is such a good way to be able to show what the important people are thinking, reacting to, in real time. I know it's not popular in the circles we move in, but I've been paying attention, and many of the best sellers I read are in this what we consider 'quaint, old fashioned' POV. I'm sort of toying with it in my current novel but I'm sure I will cave and go back to multiple POVs chapter by chapter or scene by scene. Who knows? That's why writing is so fun, isn't it?

Denise :-)

G. B. Miller said...

I've only got two that no matter how many times I return to them, I never get anywhere with them.

The first one was a novel that I was writing based on very mediocre medium length story, and I was actually making decent progress on it. Then one morning, a seed of an idea came a-knockin' and the end result was a book that is on your TBR pile. By the time I came back to it some 2 1/2 years later, I couldn't find either the plot threads (there were 3) nor could I remember the ending I had wanted.

The 2nd is/was a little more delicate/troubling. I got the seed for a story after watching a particular troubling scene in a Australian crime movie. So away I went to write, and got roughly 3 chapters completed before I put it aside. This was by choice and it was strictly due to the subject matter. The deeper I got into the story, the more it really bothered me (it's a subject matter that I feel so strongly about that I actually convinced a now-closed e-zine to pull a story that they had already published).

In regards to p.o.v., while I wrote my first in the standard 3rd, the novella I want to self-pub I rewrote in the 1st. Challenges I do love, and present tense is high on that list.

Father Nature's Corner

Roland D. Yeomans said...

A timid person still tries to make sense of what is going on around her. Helen would not actually be narrating to anyone perhaps but to herself to understand what is going on in her strange life.

After all, we all narrate our path through life to ourselves. Perhaps you could do that.

Kim by Kipling and Great Expectations by Dickens or Treasure Island by Stevenson are all considered YA but include adult perspectives in one way or another.

I wish you the best of luck. And I miss ABNA, too. Amazon is distancing itself from independents I believe.

Helena said...

Dolora made a good recommendation with The Lovely Bones--a story narrated by a dead girl. Then a large part of Gone Girl was narrated by a character who we thought was dead but had recorded part of her story in her diary.

It sounds as if you haven't quite found Helen's full personality just yet. Like you say, timid isn't enough, but I suspect that when she does take more definite shape and her voice becomes stronger, she's the one who'll let you how to tell her story. I love it when characters do that--makes our job easier.

My sci fi book is one I've set aside, and I realized a big reason was because I wasn't sure where it was going. But recently I figured out the plot along with changes in the lead character, who narrates the story in first person. When I have time it'll feel good to go back and start writing it again.

Nick Wilford said...

At least you have some good ideas on where you're going, but there's a lot of work and experimenting ahead. But this story must be important enough for you to go back to it and get it right - I know there are some I'll never go back to! Good luck.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Thinking about your Allan character made me think about Please Ignore Vera Deitz by A.S. King. That book has POV chapters from the MC's dad. And a Pagoda. So, i definitely think Allan can work if you want him

Carol Kilgore said...

Maybe Helen isn't as timid as she's let on. Or maybe she's vowed to be less timid as a ghost than she was in life and works really hard at that. Or maybe there's one thing that punches her buttons or lights her fire. Or maybe even her dead self is allergic to something that causes the person she's nearest to to sneeze or break out in hives. Invite her into the tub with you and see what you learn.

Arlee Bird said...

Books going back years? Yes. What have I been doing? Nothing. I've got nothing to share on this topic. Somebody want to give me a good swift kick in the rear to get me going?

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out