Leaving Valenia…for a while

I have now had two rejections in this latest round of submissions to agents. Progress, however slow.

I don’t like to change my mind about something when I’ve made it up, but I’ve just done that very thing. It’s been a hard decision, made at the end of a very hard twenty-four hours.

You see, I received two conflicting pieces of critique on my work from two writers I respect very much. One told me that every scene had to advance the plot, and that many of the scenes in The Swan Harp didn’t do that, and needed to be cut. The other complained that The Last Black Swan was all plot and no introspection.

Cut the introspection and go for plot. Stop focusing so much on the plot and give us introspection.

In retrospect, it’s no surprise to me that I had a meltdown. Critique is vital, and I’m not in this just to hear, “Oh, this is great!” But these were diametrically conflicting demands, both requiring considerable work to address. The prospect of all the work I apparently have to do on these books, at the glacial pace of an hour a day, overwhelmed me. The thing that kept going through my head was, “I can’t do this.” I couldn’t get past it, and it was devastating.

What I wanted was someone with more experience that I have in writing and publishing fiction. I know a couple of people, but nobody I feel I could simply phone in a crisis. Instead I called a friend who has read both books and who I was dead sure would tell me the truth, and not just what I might want to hear.

It’s impossible to please everybody; I know that. I have to write the story I want to tell, but my own wish to publish means that there will be demands that don’t fit with mine. What I hoped to get from my friend Larry was balance. I kind of expected that he would say something like, “Well, Swan Harp does start a bit slow; you could condense that, and, yes, Last Black Swan rips us along pretty fast.” I hoped to hear that the changes weren’t as extreme as I feared.

What Larry told me was that nothing needed changing, but that I needed a break. I’m not sure I’m a hundred percent with him on the first part, but the idea of a break, as soon as he said it, was like a light in a dark room.

I love Kiar’s world, and telling this story. I’ve thought about it every day for months – make that years – even when I haven’t been writing it. I’ve worked on it most days. I know the geography of Valenia, the taste of the food, the layout of the castle and the lives of the people. Sometimes that world has seemed more real to me than my own. I need a vacation.

So I’m leaving Valenia behind for a few weeks. I’ve decided to give myself until equinox. If I’m not ready to return then, I’ll take a couple more weeks, but by early April I should be ready to get back to it. In the meantime I have a non-fiction project I’ve wanted to get at, and if I’m hungry to write fiction, there’s always “Here be Dragons”.

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