So writing this book has been a real struggle. It’s probably about the seventh book I’ve written (all unpublished, by the way) in my lifetime, but this is the first since starting the blog. Writing a blog has helped me tremendously. It’s got me used to writing regularly (ahem, yes since working on this book it’s been a while since I’ve posted – awkward emoji face) and I think it has helped me to improve.
By Christmas I was 85,000 words in and going great guns. I got so carried away with myself I thought this is it! The best seller! The one that will get published! So I foolishly thought I’d send off the first three chapters. There is a literary agent to whom I have been sending stuff for about ten years. The reason I send it to her is because she is the only one, out of the hundreds I have contacted, who always writes a few lines in response.
To begin with she said ‘you write with some fluency but the plot is pedestrian and your characters unconvincing.’ I just saw ‘you write with some fluency’ – woo hoo! So I scrapped that novel and started a new one. And then another. The feedback remained pretty much the same until the year before last I sent her my latest inspiration, a murder/detective story which I wrote in a ‘chick lit’ style. Looking back I can see the ‘comic caper’ approach to a series of gruesome murders was ill advised.
Her response this time was…
‘Your novel is an amusing read but I think you are mistaken in trying to mix genres. It has too much of a crime plot for chick lit and is too chirpy for the crime market. It has to be one or the other!
I’m afraid I found the heroine just too silly to be credible as a private eye investigator.’
Ha!! I love the last line – the heroine was too much of an idiot. Hmm, she was completely based on me.
So what about my latest endeavour. I was stupid to send her the first three chapters of my latest piece when I hadn’t quite finished. Also, I knew – deep down – that there was a real flaw in it. The novel comprises of two narrators, and although I felt I knew the first narrator inside and out and absolutely had a sense of her voice, the second one was more difficult.
So the latest response for the agent was useful – though depressing. This time she said ‘your writing is better’. HOORAY! That’s good. BUT. Then she said, ‘but I wasn’t moved by the plot’ and that she ‘didn’t warm to the characters.’ Damn. BUT. THEN she said ‘try another agent’ and gave me a name to write to.
Now that has never happened before. Either 1. She’s sick of hearing from me every year and is passing the buck or 2. She thinks I am publishable and though it’s not to her taste, others may like it.
I am going to go with option 2. because option 1. is too depressing.
The good thing is her comment has made me really look hard at the novel. I have re-written it three or four times and I keep struggling to write the ending. I think it’s because I have gone down the wrong fork at some point. After many hours thinking it though, the problem lies with the second narrator.
I worry that in the first version she is too miserable, too much of a victim. too dramatic. So I’ve started all over again and written an alternative first (second narator) chapter.
The reason I am writing this post is to see if any lovely person can tell me which of the following two versions of the starting chapter is better? In my head I have the end of each of them but I need to know which fork to choose. Yes I know, I know, I should go to writing class, or pay someone maybe, but I haven’t the confidence just yet. (I am hoping it kicks in at some point before I hit 60)
So if you have the time and the inclination I would really appreciate it, dear reader, if you could read the following chapters and tell me whether you prefer Version A or Version B. Please ignore typos/spelling mistakes etc as they are very much drafts.
Thank you!! And a Happy New Year to all of you.
Update – If you are interested I have added the very first chapter below. That introduces the first narrator. But I love my witch and I won’t change her even if you don’t think its any good!