Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Substance of Hope

For the past six months, I've been plagued with one main question in my writing life: Is my first Madison story, the one I'm shopping around to agents, enough of a story? Is there enough meat, enough action, enough twists in plot, enough arc in character to satisfy a reader? Is it the story I want to launch my career with? Does it have enough energy to make readers crave the next one?

Heavy questions, especially whenever a rejection comes in and the doubts resurface. So for these last six months, while I ponder the depth and breadth of Conventional Demon, I've been thinking of ways to make it better. One of the best plans I've come up with is to weave what I wrote for book 2 into book 1.

I haven't taken this idea lightly. I've pondered it at least a dozen times at 3 AM. I've wavered over the pros, whiffle-waffled over the cons, doubted my doubts, and in general, run circles around it in my thoughts until just thinking the word "Madison" sets off a chain reaction of thoughts as well worn and familiar as my apartment's hallway carpet.

Today, I took my first step toward making a final decision: I printed off the first 100 pages of book 2, and for the first time ever (and I wrote this book in November 2008), I started to read it. By reading it, I hope to see if there's too much story to cram it all in with the first book. Beyond that, I want to see if it's good enough on its own. If it could possibly be book one, if it needed to. If it is a complete story, or if it's missing the third act.

I've read the first two chapters and I'm no closer to answering any of my questions, but I do have renewed hope. I can see the promise in the pages, read the greatness in a few random lines, see the humor in situations. There's so much potential in what I wrote. None of it is perfect. Almost to a sentence, there are changes needed. Ideas that I changed in book one that affect book two. Passive verbs that need to be taken out and shot, replaced with verbs with some meat on their bones. Explanations of motives and world rules that need to be clarified and woven more delicately into the framework of the story.

But overall, there is substance and there is some good story to be read. Almost two years later, I still like what I'm reading. That, if nothing else, says that I'll find something worth selling. Now I just need to determine what the final form of that sellable product will look like.


TikiBird said...

#1: Your story kicks ass. I loved it and thought it was a "real book" even way back when! Just because a few agents aren't the right fit for it doesn't mean that it needs to be redone.

#2: I'm pretty sure that in the history of the world, nobody's 3 a.m. thoughts have been right on. Pleeease sleep on it a little bit more (or at least get some more critiques before starting major demolition)?

Rebecca Chastain said...

Thanks for the encouragement! The further I read in Book 2, the less I like the idea of integration. Still, I worry. I think I need to read book one again, just to reassure myself.

I am not caving the psychotic lure of 3 AM thoughts...yet.