I’m having to rethink some key sections of T.J.’s Story. I changed the plot quite a bit after I wrote the first draft last November, so I decided I’d better write up a new outline and send it to my editor (since this isn’t what I said the book was going to be about when I got the contract). I came up with this whole other family secret that the girls would uncover…a new character…and a good part of the story hinged on diary entries (written by T.J.’s grandmother).
Editor doesn’t like the family secret, the new character or the diary. She says the family secret and the new character delves too much into the past and readers “aren’t going to care about the ‘why’ of the past as much as they will the ‘what now’ of the girls in the present.” Tracking down the new character is “too much like what happened in book 1.” And the diary? Editor says, “No matter how many angles writers try, reviewers always slam them on this device.”
Sigh. I was 50+ pages into this new manuscript!
Do I agree with her? Unfortunately…yes. I think it might be easier if I DIDN’T agree…if I believed in my story as I’ve been writing it. Then I could just argue with her, and think all kinds of bad thoughts about her if she didn’t let me do it my way. But ultimately, I’m limited by what I wrote in book 1…and given the time frame I already set up for this book in book 1, I was having hesitations about pulling it off all along.
When I go back and reread the fan mail I’ve gotten on book 1, just about every letter and e-mail I’ve received is of the “how-could-you-end-this-book-HERE/what-happens-NEXT???” variety. Editor is right…I have to go FORWARD with this story, not backwards.
The only thing she said that I’m not entirely convinced is right is the diary thing. Do reviewers really slam you if you have diary entries in your story??? Editor thinks it would be better to show T.J.’s memories rather than use Grandma’s diary entries to show everything that’s happened to her in the past ten years. Which, gee…when I write that out rather than read it in Editor’s e-mail, it makes a lot of sense. I just thought T.J. didn’t have a lot of memories…but maybe that’s a cop out? Maybe I need to figure out just what she DOES remember?
I’m not sure…I AM grateful to Editor for saving me from myself NOW rather than telling me all this when I have a complete manuscript (really, I am!). The real question is why didn’t I see all this myself??? I don’t want to just turn in a book…I want this to be a GOOD book. Which is part of my problem. I’ve gotten so many letters and e-mails on that first book…letters and e-mails from kids who are waiting for the sequel…and I’m so afraid the sequel will disappoint. That it won’t live up to the first book.
But Editor and I have been e-mailing…and I think we’re going to talk tomorrow…hopefully I can get back on track soon…