Saturday, February 26, 2011

Writing Conundrum--Advice Appreciated

When I was in seventh grade, I had a really weird dream. It was incredibly vivid, it stayed with me for many days, almost haunting me, and then I decided to start writing what eventually became the first copy of what's now my completed novel manuscript.

That original piece bears little similarity to what exists now, of course. For one thing, the main character didn't exist at the time (talk about doing things back asswards, right?). Or one of the main characters. Or ... okay, guess I'd better explain this, because therein lies the base of my confusion.

The Gist of the Original Story:
A girl is hired to babysit for a neighboring family when the parents go away for a weekend. A ghost/witch/some sort of evil creature haunts the kids because she's the biological mother of one of the kids (who was, of course, adopted). Unfinished.

Now, this is of course a typical seventh grade story. It had kids banding together to fight an evil force. Period. Kabam. It really kind of stunk.

Gist of the Second Draft:
A girl with a really crappy home life is hired to babsit for a rich family that lives in town when the parents go away for a weekend. The oldest son of the family is, of course, hot ... and, of course, interested in the girl. They fall in love over the backdrop of protecting his little sister from the possessed spirit of his little sister's biological mother. Also unfinished.

I'm going to guess this was at approximately ninth grade or so. It was kind of soft core porn in parts written by a very inexperienced girl. I don't have an existing copy of this draft, but the parts I remember are just toe-curling.

Gist of the Third Draft:
Pretty much the same of the second draft, although better written (not that it was great, but it was a step up). The dialogue was pretty impressive in terms of capturing characterization and sounding realistic (which it should have ... I was, I think, a junior in high school and I'd of course aged my main characters to high school juniors, so I pretty much just wrote the way conversations I had with my friends would go ... this turned out to be a gift later on down the line). I also added several characters, the most notable being Roy Pentinicci.

I added a character named Roy into my novel as part of an ongoing joke with my brother and sister. I cannot divulge details about the back story of said sibling pact(it involves a gay porn magazine and idle chatter made by various relatives ... trust me, you don't want to know), but suffice it to say that the entire cast of unrealistic, formulaic characters would have died a long, slow death if Roy hadn't been created. Roy was initially a very small character that was the then-main character's best friend. He was kind of a jerk, a typical "bad boy", pretty much without limits. He was also, of course, hot (but in a different way than the Mr. Perfect "leading man").

Time goes by. I have a child, I go to college, I live, I laugh, I cry, I learn, I experience. I meet my friend Andy at a New Year's Eve party when I'm nineteen, and it occurs to me when we start hanging out a lot that he IS Roy. This motivates me to pull out the old manuscript and I realize, with both the eye of a slightly older me and my near-obsession with Andy, that Roy is really the most interesting part of the whole piece.

And so I started a new WiP, this one centered around Roy. It started with his childhood as the son of a quasi-exiled Mafia hitman and the abuse he suffered at the hands of both parents. It dealt with his sister's sexual abuse at the hands of his father and the murder of his younger brother. It was a great character sketch, and definitely the best writing that I'd ever done up to that point ... but nothing really happened. Nothing really happened, that is, until Roy became a high school junior and was spending the weekend at his best friend's house with a babysitter and an evil possessed spirit shows up, and ...

Well, you can see what happened. I had two stories that were really one story, and I couldn't figure out what to do. It seemed necessary to me that both Roy's point of view and Susy's (the babysitting girl) were significant to the bottom line of the story ...

And so I started again, the piece that ultimately became Unbreakable, and it had two narrators, and of course it was told via flashback because I was an adult by this point, so I had to turn my main characters into adults that were reflecting on their traumatic childhoods--and their dual salvation from their horrible lives by the rich family who are no longer perfectly too good to be true.

It changed in other ways, too (for example, I'd made this incredible villain in Roy's father who was much more diabolical--and much more realistic--than some random witch/ghost thing, so I changed it to him holding the kids captive), and I was right about the dual storytelling giving the story far richer perspective.

The problem? It's long. Very long. Like, 150,000 words worth of long. I queried it and had several bites--requests for the first three chapters, two subsequent requests for the first 100 words, and a heady solicitation of the entire manuscript.

And then nothing.

And so I've been sitting on this novel for quite awhile. It's good, I know that. Is it good enough? Everyone who reads it seems to think so, but then again, most of them know me in real life (they do all finish it, though, and finish it quickly, so I guess that means something).

Anyway, I'm toying with the idea of separating out the stories, of pulling a reverse Dark Crystal and turning two stories that became one story back into two stories in the interest of manuscript length.

Any suggestions, thoughts, feedback would be much appreciated here.