I made a difficult decision yesterday and today I'm feeling really good about it.
I'm chucking the first novel and focusing on the second, which will now be the first.
I have been mulling it for awhile and--I know, I know--some of you suggested it back when I told you the second one was so much better than the first. But you know, I was quite attached to that first book. Because it was my first book. It has taken a little while, but I woke up this morning feeling hopeful about this whole fiction-writing thing for the first time in weeks, remembering my decision.
As a writer of nonfiction, I know how absolutely critical it is to be able to toss work you've done to do better work. And I know how hard it is to do, yet I've mastered it. But a whole book? That just seemed too hard. And yet, the more I tried to revise it, the worse I felt about it. I just couldn't revise it into what I felt was the quality of the second book--on the first draft.
The fact is, I learned to write fiction on that first book. I began not really knowing if I could write fiction and by the time I got to the end, I had found that I could, but there was a clear learning curve right there in the pages of the text. After the revisions, I do feel really good about the first section of the first book--I do feel I revised it to a high enough quality to please me. But now there's a different problem I just can't revise away. And that is the problem of genre. The book begins looking really, really like your standard (well, maybe not standard, but...) romance novel. Then it morphs into something...not...a romance novel. But selling it is just not a simple matter. Romance people have shown interest in it, then when they look at a bigger piece of it, they decline. Non-romance people are like "I don't do romance" and decline sooner. And this can't be revised away. I do think the narrative makes logical sense--if complexly--but I just don't think it's a good choice for a debut novel. It's just too confusing. It requires too much hand-wringing and explanation.
Now, the second book? I feel really confident about. The only question is, can I really make it stand alone/be a first book when it was originally envisioned as a sequel? And I think I can. It's actually an excellent exercise for me, because I really want all the books I have planned to stand alone, in spite of sharing settings and characters and plot elements. So I'm doing a little audit on Book Two now, to smooth out those places that were clunky reminders of Book One plot points and make it all original. And it's going rather more easily than I thought it would when I first started mulling the idea.
I have this little personal pantheon of lesbian novelists I fantasize about being BFFs with and when I was banging my head against the Book One revisions wall, I just couldn't imagine them giving me the time of day. Book Two? I feel I could hold my head up in their company. Sure, this is all in my head, but boy am I realizing just how important it is to have the right things in my head when writing fiction!
Now, some of you have been absolutely FABULOUS and have read early drafts of Book One and given me invaluable feedback. Two things 1) In the end, however I resisted at first, I have taken every scrap of your excellent advice and the book is virtually unrecognizable from what you read for me (in the best possible way) and for that I am eternally grateful. There is no way I could have improved it so much on my own and I really appreciate your honest feedback. 2) I said I was chucking it, but what I'm really doing is tucking it away. I will come back to it someday, I am 100% certain. It will be a longed-for prequel when my fans are wondering How It All Began, right? I just need to step away from it for a good while and come back to it fresh much later.
In other news, I owe you folks a sonnet. I have an idea and the first two lines, but this week, I think I'll be late. I was ill in bed for three solid days this week and am not really 100% better yet. It's a shame, because the sonnet is Winter Solstice themed and I was hoping to post it today. I suppose it could still happen, but probably not. I suppose maybe I'll get it up here by tomorrow and it will still be cool.
Post links/sonnets of your own below, please!