Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Good and The Bad

I met with Janet Reid on Saturday. Face to face with The Agent. It was... anti-climactic. At first glance.

I was sitting in the reception area after lunch with a few minutes to spare before our meeting, observing the other attendees, absorbing the experience. She came over and asked if I was ready. Sure, ready as I'm gonna be.

We went into a private room with a long table and a sky of natural light. She dropped my pages on the table in front of me and said, "Try not to faint."

I picked them up to take a look. Her blue markings were all over the place. She started talking.

She said my opening sentences were too long. She said start with the second paragraph. She said it needs tightening.

Okay. I can take that.

She pointed out a couple of other problems, such as a lack of a compelling reason for a particular action. Okay, I can see that. Sort of. I thought a reader would take something for granted, but I can see how the action could be given a clear motive. Fair enough.

It seemed to me that she thought she was being more harsh than what I thought she was being. Maybe she's used to wannabe writers who crumble under the critical words of a pro. Maybe she made some early presumptions about me based on meeting me earlier in the day. Maybe I'm dense and couldn't read between the lines. I don't know.

She also said, "You're not a bad writer. No, I take that back. You're a good writer."

Okay, thanks for that.

"You've got all the elements of a good opening." Followed by, "It still needs work."

I put the manuscript down and absorbed the comments, and we talked some more. We talked about writing and writers, and the value of many of the agent and editor blogs. She likes Evil Editor's blog. Who doesn't?

She asked me questions. Where do I live? What do I do for a living? We talked regular people stuff. I shared some personal info, and so did she.

Before I knew it, my thirty minutes were up.

It was upon reflection that I found the real value in the meeting. I took a few days to digest her comments and read her marks and comments on the manuscript.

It does need tightening. How could I have missed the things she pointed out? They seem so obvious to me now.

I played with the first two paragraphs tonight. I shortened the sentences. I moved some things around. What do you know? It's better.

I've also been giving a lot of thought to the story itself. It's no secret to anyone who's read my occassional whinings on here, I've struggled with the outcome. I don't like the plot as it stands. The main character doesn't have enough at stake. He isn't conflicted enough for my liking.

I've decided to start over, and I feel liberated by the decision. I'll keep this story and possibly use some characters and scenes, but I'm making big changes.

The main character is going to be darker, with more inner turmoil. He'll be more tragic. And he'll have personal stakes in the outcome. I thought I could write that subtext into the plot I started with, and maybe I still could, but I'm not sold on the story as the way I'm telling it, so I'm going to create a story I can get my teeth into.

While I noodle the story, I'm researching police and investigative procedures much more deeply than I have to this point. It's fun. Writing cop scenes will be fun.

Back to the conference. A great experience. I met some nice people. I learned a lot.

Shorter sentences. Got it.


At 6:30 PM , Blogger Robin S. said...

Well, you go, Wood! Can't wait to have a read.

But just do me a favor - don't change TOO much- it was already damn good.

At 10:22 AM , Blogger Conduit said...

Glad you found it a positive experience. And well done for being cool under pressure. It's interesting that you had a more personal discussion with Janet Reid - that's she was interested in you as a person is a good sign, I think. Reading between the lines, I think when an agent does this they're sounding you out in terms of what you'd be like to work with. I believe when you're ready to query, you'll have a head start with Janet Reid because you made a good impression as a writer with a professional attitude.

At 5:58 PM , Blogger Wonderwood said...

Thanks, Robin, you know I'll want you to read some pages when I get to that point. But I am making major changes. I've got to up the stakes for the MC, and he's got to be more tragic. Totally new plot. I might keep some of the other characters, and who knows, maybe I'll come back to this story sometime down the line, but it's going on hold for now.

Thanks, Stuart. I'm not sure how to take the meeting with Janet. I'm not so sure I'm someone she would want to work with. Just a gut feel that maybe I'm not the right fit for her. I'm sure I'll send her a query, but there's a feeling lurking underneath that I'm not her kind of writer. That's okay, though, I did gather some valuable information from my meeting with her. And she gave me a compliment and sincere encouragement. Overall it was a very positive experience and I'm a better writer for it. Who knows what the future holds.

I'm excited about starting something new, letting some fresh ideas percolate. I did gain some solid experience from working the previous story. It was great excercise writing first person POV, it made me work hard on some weaknesses in my writing. I haven't decided yet if the new story will be first or close third, I'll have to see what the story looks like before I decide how to tell it. The main thing is, the passion to create is surging, and that has to be a good thing.

At 7:15 AM , Blogger blogless troll said...

Sounds like you had a great experience. I second Robin, but if it does change drastically, at least give Gator some scenes.

At 6:46 PM , Blogger Wonderwood said...

Hiya BT! Absolutely, Gator stays as a character, he's too interesting to drop. His dog, Bullet, also stays.

At 3:23 AM , Blogger Robin S. said...

I like your characters!

Can't you just tweak 'em - make 'em darker in places if need be, but keep 'em?

Yeah. I know. It's not my book.


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