A week and a half ago I discussed my manuscript with my friend N. N is a literary agent who does nonfiction. She also does editing for her agency. However, she reads hundreds of novels every year, mostly genre ones. She was curious about my second draft because she’d heard me kvetching about my novel for two years, so I gave it to her and hoped she wouldn’t vomit.
N had a lot of encouraging feedback and advised me to submit a later version of the manuscript to agents, though we still don’t know whether this manuscript is romance or science fiction. Right now, I’m leaning towards social science fiction because a lot of the plot explores societal issues. The novel wouldn’t work without the love story, but the manuscript doesn’t always have that in focus. We were trying to figure out comps, and N said Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which surprised me a lot. I don’t have cool transit modes or branding or conceptions of cyberspace. I guess both books are about the strangeness of capitalism, though.
N and John detected a lot of the same weaknesses in my manuscript. The ones they agree on make sense to me and are going to need some work. There were some things they didn’t agree on (some content on one scene, the length of another), which I found more interesting and less likely that I’d revise. I have a to-do list of things to fix, but I’m not entirely sure what the best way is to fix two of them. I also have a lot of prose to fix. Time to roll up my…I don’t have sleeves, it’s summer!
I’m also in the middle of a cross-country move, so my environment is chaos. I’m hoping to get settled in without too much more incident.
I haven’t done any book reviews in a while. I think I just burned myself out a bit. Writing a full review takes a bunch of thought, and I was beginning to wonder where interests conflicted. I already do The SFRB Recommends, I told myself. Asking more of myself isn’t the best idea right now. From now on on this blog, I’m only going to review books I bought.
I went to Powell’s City of Books and bought a whole bunch of books to send to Boston, so I have something nice to look forward to after I move. These books are loaner copies. I want to introduce more people to science fiction with lots of feelings. They include Rachel Bach’s Paradox series, some Ann Aguirre Sirantha Jax books, Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Echo 8, and Linnea Sinclair’s Finders Keepers.
My favorite reader and I sat down and discussed the current manuscript draft. He brought up several kinds of issues. Most of these I agreed needed fixing.
Fairly easy name issues: Some names are inconsistent, so I’ll want to make those are all correct and as non-confusing as possible. Additionally, two characters have similar names, even if it doesn’t come up often. I should rename one.
Prose issues: I have some language tics that can make the prose confusing. Also, I should use more French.
Emphasis issues: There are things I bring up early on but it’s not clear at all why they could be important.
Issues I am not sure how to fix yet: There’s a character who doesn’t have an arc, and a few other things like it.
Issues I’m not sure if I agree with: I’ll wait on my other reader’s feedback and quiz her on these (as neutrally as I can). They concern some world details and other ambiguities.
I am so thankful for his feedback. He enjoyed the novel, so I consider it a success already. Writing is interesting in that people have wildly different success metrics, even for the same author. Example: I believe success is making this manuscript something I and John would enjoy reading. Mom thinks success for me would be selling lots of copies. I’d rather not take that kind of pressure, thank you.
I took a week’s vacation in San Diego, which is a beautiful place. I stayed with John and our moms on Ocean Beach. Every night we got lulled to sleep by the waves breaking outside. Revision was slow going, though, and I sent my second draft off to two readers last weekend. Before that, I’d been the only one who’d read most of the material, and it felt like my private world for two years. I let John in, but only to look at certain stuff. Now he’ll get to read the whole thing. I also sent it to a friend who’s an agent and editor for her day job- she’ll tell me how much more I need to fix and polish it before I send it to editors, and whether I should try submitting it to publishers and agents, publish it myself, or just hide it under my bed.
In the somewhat anxious wait, I’ll work more on the prose of my manuscript. I do enjoy marking it up with comments in Scrivener. I’m most afraid that I have written something worthwhile, because then I must serve the work and make it the best it can be.
I continue hacking my way through the second draft of my manuscript. I’ve got revision fatigue, so I had to take some time off it while I was working on it. I may start doing some other scratch notes and writing on other stories. There’s the sequel to Razor (manuscript working title), and also a more fantasy-like novel about magic which is complex mathematical formulas. Really!
In some writer groups I find plenty of discussion of writing to market. In SFR this means writing an erotic novel with a shirtless pale-skinned fellow with no head on the cover. The title often has plenty of tropes in it. Now, if you like writing that or reading that, great. I’ve read about writers trying to bend to do that style themselves, often for the money. If it is something they enjoy, great.
I would find writing such a novel extremely difficult because I can never keep anything simple. I also find writing anything I’m not interested in reading difficult. Anyway, I have no idea which genre to market my manuscript in. I recently finished the fantabulous Wanted and Wired, and I think my writing is a little less romance-focused: fewer thoughts about kissing and more thoughts on the ramifications of capitalism.
All that said, I look at my manuscript and can see oodles of things to fix, and also a plethora of things that may or may not need fixing. That’s why I’m turning the second draft over to two friends with the following question: Bury the manuscript and never look at it again? If not, what do I work towards?