Friday, March 27, 2009

On Reading My Novel For The First Time

Behold! The miracle of lack of inspiration, followed by a quick 'Fill up the damned page, already.' Color helps...

Well, it's been a while since I posted. Not to go into it but it's starting to seem as if you can track my manic and depressive states by observing the frequency with which I blog...


I finally heard back from another reader on the novel. She was quite enthusiastic. It was really encouraging -- it seemed as though what I was trying for was coming through. Among other things, I'm deliberately attempting to write a very masculine work that doesn't crap on women -- one of the central themes is that of masculine identity in a post-feminist society. She said she thought of it as a feminist novel. I very consciously visualized the scenes as I wrote. I could have storyboarded them. She told me that she could see the scenes as she read. Cool! It went on like that for some time. Frankly, I ate it up with a spoon. I'm developing an unseemly fondness for praise.

Her criticisms were quite useful -- the main one was something I'd been planning to do (compress chapters two and three into one chapter and dump most of the characters introduced there) and the other was something I'd set up to do and then forgotten about (make the events of the story dovetail with the desires of the lead character). She also gave me some sparse but very good line edits.

So I read the thing myself. It was the first time I'd sat down and gone through the current version. I have more work to do than I thought -- two of the main characters are a lot less sympathetic than I intended, among other things. But it's a pretty decent read.

This is going to sound like rampant egotism, but I was really disappointed. It was very good -- a solid, fast-paced adventure story. It was well-written. It had some thematic depth. Some real invention. I honestly think it's better than most genre fiction.

But it wasn't great.

That's just pathetic -- finding myself tore up because I haven't written a classic work of literature. Well, that isn't really what I was aiming for -- but I want to produce something that will be a (god help me) minor classic in its own little niche. A great fantasy that has some real resonance. But there we go. We dream in fire and work in clay...

On the other hand, this is just the first volume and while it's a satisfying read on its own, it is just the introduction to the situation. It will get deeper as it goes along. Most of what I'm trying for comes later -- I'm gonna try and tear the reader's heart out in volume two and nurse them back to life in volume three.

We shall see. We shall see.


robp said...

Which of them aren't sympathetic? You know, one's an obvious asshole but I think I found my sympathy building for him as the story went; he's more complex than initially presented and I think that's well done.

Humans aren't all that likable in general, you know; some of them are just more useful than others.

Sean Craven said...

Interestingly, it was James and Dierdre who wound up seeming kind of distant. Which is funny, since in earlier drafts I was told that the interaction between Matt and Dierdre was the high point in the book and all that stuff's still there.

Thing is, is that most of their interactions with Matt come off as crabby now. Gonna have to give them just a wee tad of nice time -- not enough to slow things down, just enough to show that they're pleasant people.

And as for Willy the asshole... Oh, I have plans for that dude.

robp said...

Now that you mention it, Dierdre comes off as a user and James as a dumbfuck, but as Matt has a crush on Dierdre I didn't have a problem with either of those things. So long as Dierdre is established as a viable crushette James could damnnear be Hitler and his presence would be accepted. And I didn't have a problem with Dierdre.

Willy, of course, is one of my favorite characters (asshole guitarist - I thought you were writing fiction?) and I look forward to however your plans play out.

The thing is, however you see this as a series, book 1 has to kick ass on its own. For starters, to ensure publication of the rest of the series, but also so that at the end the series stands up as a whole, doesn't read like you had an idea in book 1 then launched into the real writing after that.

Book 1 has to be the launching pad, and it has to be fully realized as part of the series. With a dramatic ending that completes one story but allows you to move forward with the next section. You can't let it slide as a lesser book, however much you may want to develop things in the future.

Consolidating chapters 2 and 3? Was that your novel? I thought it was mine.