In a flurry of editing for the #PitchWars deadline 8.18.14 in the Twitter-sphere, I've been trading critiques with other writers, published authors and mentee hopefuls like me, and seeking feedback from a second round of beta readers (gamma readers?) and even neighbors. Sent the manuscript last night to my son, 23, who promised he and a friend would both read and report back.
As I asked in the supportive environment on Twitter where writers gather under hashtags like #amwriting, #PitchWars, #pitchwarssupport group, and more, how much advice is too much?
Turns out the unanimous answer was: no amount of advice from fellow writers, published or not, is too much. But, said one person responding, you still have to consider your own manuscript. Well, geez.
So as I sort through the critique notes, print them out so I can see them all together, and as I type up other notes, some from phone advice by a multi-awarded best-selling author, I am "considering" the manuscript we've completed for Boxed Set, before I start any surgery.
One interesting expression from all of this stands out.I have a scrap of paper from a note I took a couple weeks ago. "Remember the Wound and the Want." I love that! It was from Lori Goldstein on YATopia.
As explained, the intensity of want which the main character experiences is key for the reader. It instills doubt in the reader about whether the protagonist can achieve whatever it is, the more intensely he wants it. This also creates needed tension in the plot, especially if circumstances conspire to thwart the main character's achievement(s).
The wound is the thing that makes them want. It's that situation, happening, antagonist, set-up that causes the main character to have to do something. The wound also provides the depth to the story, the motive(s) and back-story. Gotta have that.
So as I study our Jack Wroblesky and Holly Anderson, I'm looking to see if we have fully-captured their Wound and Want. I love a great saying, especially when it speaks to me loudly and clearly.
In an earlier post, I mentioned The Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel by Jess Walter, which was suggested as a similar theme to Boxed Set, a comp, then. I finished reading it, and haven't found a book I have loved so, so much in many years. It's just a beautiful piece of literary fiction, and so damn funny at the very same time the prose is making your heart swell. It's only a comp in terms of theme: unemployed, sometime hapless journalist. Our book is not literary fiction, and even if it were, I could not compare it to Walter's book. That would require hubris. Another unemployed journalist, Tess Monaghan, leads the crime series novels of Laura Lippman, also a former Baltimore Sun writer.
What I've also learned about comps is that it's important to find some comps in tone, rather than theme or even setting. I'd thought about searching for non-genre fiction set in the Midwest, until a very smart author-friend reminded me I should search for tone.
We've said before our book leans toward the humor of Hiassen or Dorsey, with a dose of reality and moral message. That may work, although our book does not open in a humorous spot. So the comp search continues...seeking a coming-of-age/second-time-around story for grown-ups in adult contemporary/commercial fiction. Not Young Adult (YA) or New Adult (NA). But our Jack is going to have to make himself into a *new* adult in this book. Different kind of new adult from the genre.
If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment! And if you're the one who told me all about Wound and Want, let me know so I can credit you.