The bad news is that my latest manuscript has been gathering rejections. The good news is that the rejections have come with consistent feedback. That’s rare and highly useful, and therefore something to appreciate as I, by necessity, must now transition from writing to revision mode.
According to those who dared to reject me (hey, it does feel like a stomach punch the first week!), I have three weaknesses in this not-yet-up-to-snuff young-adult novel:
1. My protagonist is a little on the “morose” side, and I need to jolly him up, give him a more upbeat and distinctive “voice.” In other words, lighten up!
2. Some of my teen dialogue and expressions are “outdated.” (Now there’s a tricky accusation, given how fast expressions change, and how slang can be regional, even cultural.) In other words, stay current with teen talk.
3. My first-person narrator sometimes uses over-sophisticated words, or doesn’t talk like a normal teen. This is a sin I committed not during dialogue (I know better) but during description/narration paragraphs, when it feels okay to slip into my own way of speaking. Yet having opted for a first-person teen point of view (POV), all narration (not just dialogue) has to be in his voice, which means his vocabulary level and type of expressions. It’s something I hadn’t really thought about, and needed to be told, so I hope it helps others reading this. In other words, keep POV consistent in dialogue and narration.
4. In places, there is too much telling, not enough showing. What?! After 17 published books, I can still have that one leveled at me? Evidently so!
Now that I’m nearly completed my revisions, I’ve decided to spend a blog each on these four lessons, starting next week with “lighten up.” (I try to post every Wednesday.) I’m going to share “before” and “after” passages, so you can see the differences I’ve made during weeks of back-breaking revisions. Call it Fiction Writing 201, but it’s useful perspective if it helps save you from the “ouch” of rejections.
Here’s one before-and-after passage just to give you a sense of how I “lightened up”:
Bare feet are soundless. Combined with stealth, they can buy a sliver of freedom each day. So I rise in the dark each morning just as my bedroom window catches dawn’s first hint of light.
Bare feet are soundless. Combined with stealth, they can buy a sliver of freedom. A daily sliver of freedom is all I need, but I need it like oxygen. Seriously. So, being the Sultan of Stealth, I sneak out of my bedroom before dawn and pad ninja-like down the hallway.
More next week!