As you all probably know, on April 25 I officially acquired Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary Agency as my fabulous agent. Since then I've been keeping my writerly nose to the grindstone as much as I can. But it's been a fun kind of work. For this post, I thought I'd share a bit of my revision journey.
So. Kelly typed up 4+ PAGES of comments, SINGLE SPACED, which she and I discussed in two separate, hour-long phone calls. Some are major revision points, some not. Yes, an agent may love your story, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved. Let the revisions begin.
Since the ending of the novel left Kelly feeling flat, I've entirely rewritten the last 2 1/2 chapters. That's pretty major. My protagonist needed not only to play a more active role in the climax, but the tone of the ending had to be less syrupy and "tidy." The novel is sci-fi and kinda dystopian, so it had to match the genre. In the end, I'd given my MC almost everything she'd ever dreamed of (silly me). I had also "told" a lot of the wrap-up rather than showing it. Ahem. I rewrote it, still sticking to my philosophy of predominantly happy endings.
Kelly says the "sweet spot" for YA is 80,000 (80K) words. My novel initially stood at 64K. After adding new chapters and fleshing out many scenes, I now have 76K words. Getting closer! Not sure I'll reach 80K--I don't want to have fluff for fluff's sake. Gotta keep purpose, conflict, and character development in mind for every scene. Probably some stuff will get slashed and tidied, after I'm done adding scenes.
Okay, still working on this one. Kelly said my antagonist was "empty" and "not interesting enough." Ouch. So I'm spiffying him up, making sure he's consistently villainous and fleshing out his character. I'm trying to work in who he is and WHY he's villainous. No one is evil in a vacuum, unless you're writing stereotypical characters or melodrama. That's my other goal--to make him more of a force to be reckoned with, without resorting to stereotypical behavior.
Since my novel involves Morgan, my MC, helping heavy people lose weight, it's important that I be sensitive in my presentation of body images and attitudes toward heavier people. This is a tricky thing, because in order to have a character arc, I've started Morgan out at the novel's opening with a bit of a superior attitude toward those she's helping out--I have to show this carefully. One of my problems was that I'd incorporated Morgan's condescending attitude into the narrative (not just her thoughts and dialogue), and I had to slash those instances. I'm toning Morgan's attitude down quite a bit. I'm a little concerned I'm softening her character arc, however, that way.
It's part of the awesome responsibility of writing for teens. Books can have a major influence on someone's life, and I would hate for that influence to be negative! Teen girls have enough concerns with body weight and image as it is.
Another point of revision was to develop Morgan's relationship with her romance-interest more. That's a fun order! (I think most YA should include a dash of romance.) I'm adding to the budding relationship by way of shared moments, joking around, and hand-holding. Recently I wrote a "date" scene that takes place in a movie theater--sci-fi style. Gotta include a purpose for each scene, however; I also need to include dialogue or internal thoughts that relate to the conflict.
And of course, there are many more points of tweaky revision, but I can't say those without revealing too much of the story (or boring you out of your skull). So stay tuned. The only thing I'll add is that Kelly told me I had world-building info dumps. Me? Gulp. Working those tidbits in naturally is difficult.
I'm definitely honing my writing skills, and Kelly's going to help take me to the next level!
Have you ever majorly rewritten the end of a novel?
Do you have trouble world-building in your novels without info dumping?
In general, how long are your novels? If you write YA, are they close to 80K words?
Have you written a stereotypical villain, and had to UNstereotype him/her?
Have you had to tone down your main character in order to make him/her more likeable?