This is a three-part post regarding the developmental editing I got for my first novel through Steve, the Novel Doctor. Part 1. Part 3.
This is my reply to Steve. I included excerpts from Steve’s where I felt it was relevant.
First, before I forget, a couple of friends are curious about your response, is it OK if I send them what you’ve sent me (and my reply)? I’m expecting to rely on their opinions on my decision to go forward or not, so would like them to see your input.
Second: Thank you for your input. I quickly read it yesterday before I went to bed expecting there to be a lot of issues that needed some repose to consider, but was ‘disappointed’ somewhat your responses weren’t as bad as I feared. Not as good as I hoped, which gives me a conundrum. I expected I’d need to make changes if there was potential and while the stuff you’ve recommended (for the most part, caveats embedded below) is stuff I agree would make the story stronger, I’m left with the conclusion that it might not be worth the effort at this time. I’m already involved in several projects that all have substantially more promise than the expected value of writing (given the pitiful average advance of $5K or so). Of course, they could all have value zero, as has been the case up to this point, but unless I were to become the next J. K. Rowling (I’m not getting that vibe from you or my other readers) it seems my time may be better spent on these other long-shot projects. I may simply leave writing until after our hoped-for early retirement in 6 years.
I’ve read a lot about the seemingly thankless effort to find an agent, then the rather dismal reality that getting a supportive agent only means the thankless process starts anew. Then, if that lottery pays off, the ‘reward’ is a few dollars, little to no effort to market the book, and the apparent reality that major publishers give a new book/author some 90 days to catch fire. It seems rather pointless to pursue publication under the most favorable situations. I’ve looked into the idea of targeting a small press. The information I’ve been finding indicates, if you past muster, they will invest a year or even a couple, before deciding there isn’t the expected market. In either case, it seems that the bulk of the marketing and advertising falls on the author’s shoulders which then seems to make the idea of self publishing all the more appealing. Except then there is the battle to rise above the huge amount of noise.
On the other, other hand (or the ‘gripping hand’, if you’re a Niven fan), I find myself obsessed with my characters and it is often hard to focus on my other projects. In addition to the three or so I’ve already written in this series and the two more I’ve got outlined, I have several other book summaries I’ve written that tend to grab my attention and imagination. As much fun as it is to think about the stories, characters, situations, etc. I just keep coming back to “where is the pay off?” I think I’d be better off if you felt I was a crappy writer. Indeed, there were many times over the last several months that was my hoped-for outcome. Of course, I fantasized you’d say I was the greatest thing since sliced bread and tell me you knew just the right agent, but instead I’ve got my worst-case scenario: I need to put in dozens of hours (at least) to get it ready to approach agents, then the silly process of trying to actually get published, all for the pittance offered.
What I would appreciate, if you choose to work your way through the remainder of the document, is a suggestion on whether you think I am editable or not. I know that many people who write are loath (perhaps that word is not strong enough) to alter their ‘baby’ in any way. I have very specific aims with this story and series and if sticking with them means I’m not commercial, then as difficult as it may be, I need to put this writing thing behind me. If, instead, you feel my justifications are reasonable (e.g., I may have commercial appeal sticking to my guns), I’m back to the conundrum of do I invest the time/energy in something with the huge hill to climb to have any measurable success, let alone the Mount Olympus climb to achieve the financial success I feel I need to justify taking time/energy away from my other projects.
…As written, it’s definitely not a romance novel. It isn’t erotica, either, though it sounds like you could almost turn it in that direction by going back to what you were originally writing. In that case, you’d have an alpha male (of the highest degree) who falls for one (or two) strong female characters. This might be the direction to go, since you already have the framework for adding more scenes that ooze sex and power and (eventually) something resembling love.
If you are open to it, I could send you the extracts with the detailed sex in it. I was told my sex was too mechanical, as well as too much or too little, which is why I took it out. I’m now convinced I’m not the right guy to do erotica, but I’ve only had the one reader that ‘specialized’ in that sort of reading (she was the one that said it was too much or too little). As mentioned elsewhere, I plan on (assuming I move forward) substantially upping the romance of the first sex scene, but don’t intend to add erotica back when doing so.
I have to wonder what the book would sound like in first person, past tense. I have a gut feeling it could be stronger that way.
The conceit I had when I started this ‘diary’ is that the author (Seacay) has decided to take his actual diaries (who knows what they would look like, probably be something encrypted) and write them into something novelish and sell it. When I originally started my character sketch I actually intended to have this ‘ghost written’ from Seacay’s verbal accounts. I decided that was cumbersome and chose instead to go with the first person POV. As one of Seacay’s hobbies is reading, I would expect he would attempt to adhere to a lot of things you are describing, so I believe that the changes you are suggesting will allow me to maintain the goal I set out to achieve.
…I almost wish you’d use the whole first Part to tease the coming relationship. Perhaps they do fall into bed by the end of the section, but don’t share all those intimate details about their lives. Leave some of that off the page early on to create more of that all-important intrigue that will compel readers. Let some mystery remain in Seacay’s head/heart, so the tug back to her becomes even more significant.
I think I can get behind your suggestion of putting off Isabel’s backstory. When I originally wrote the first part it was as a short story, but when it ran so long, I decided to shift focus to a novel instead. I want to show some sort of transformation for her, though, because as I reveal later in this book and emphasize in later books, she has very little interest in sex with anyone, but particularly men. I felt it was important to show why she would be willing to consider trying to get her man, but I do agree it could be put further off in the story.
Bottom line is this: secrecy is power – so wouldn’t there be some of that going on even in this budding romance?
I agree with the ‘show vs tell’ issue, but often need some help in specifically addressing instances. I certainly ‘tell’ a lot, but I feel it is necessary to move the story along. Based on comments from you and other readers, my conclusion is much of my ‘telling’ is acceptable, so I need specific instances (like the one you point out above).
Also, while I certainly can buy Seacay’s “no other relationship will compare to this” snap judgment, based on his experience with Isabel, it’s a big leap for someone who’s thus far considered women to be little more than distractions. I think it can work – perhaps even better if you do what I suggest above – but it’s the kind of thing that grows on you, rather than is immediately certain. At least I think that would be true. Perhaps even moreso if there are some unanswered questions – some secrets – re: Isabel.
The way I wrote the original sex scene there was lots of graphic, fluid filled sex. I think I cut too much, or rather, didn’t adequately replace the fluids with something else. I’ve been working on converting the novel to a screenplay (as if I didn’t already have enough distractions already 😉 and have been looking at each key scene (I consider that one of the most key) and realized that, as written, there is essentially no way any reasonable reader (or viewer) would think these two people had got unrecoverably hooked on one another.
For someone who prefers to work alone, he sure was quick to agree to help Tessa and Isabel. I wondered if this was believable for someone who by choice, and by personality, needs to be highly protective of his choices regarding other people (especially people in the same business). He just needs to act honestly from that core of who he is for readers to trust him and care about him. Not that he can’t have cracks that show he’s not entirely consistent, but that he tries to be consistent to the core truths he’s embraced.
Yes, I like this. I should indeed show him reluctant, at least second guessing himself. He wants an excuse to be with Isabel, but worries he is losing his opsec because he is thinking with the ‘little head’.
I’ll mention this a few times, but his skillset is a bit hard to believe. Yes, in Part Three we see some imperfections and hiccups in the execution of his plans, but it’s rare. It’s something that will cause some readers to go “really?” when you want them to go “cool.” For example, he always seems to have exactly the tech he needs to get the job done. That can feel like a plot contrivance at times. What if he has to improvise once in a while? What if he screws up?
This is sort of the sticking point for me. For the most part (the use of the needle gun being the one I haven’t researched to my satisfaction yet), all the elements I use in the story I know are things active ‘in the field’. What you (and, I freely admit, other of my readers) feel are unrealistic elements I know are reasonable, even pedestrian in some cases. I intend him to be an expert and to pick up the story after he’s gone through his early, error-filled, apprenticeship stage. Allowing Isabel a reason to be rescued as a damsel in distress actually occupied me for a long time as I want her (and Tessa) to also be experts with extensive experience, thus unlikely to make mistakes. If, as seems to be the growing consensus, stories written with this goal in mind are not ‘interesting’, then it is probably best for me to set these aside. I understand the general draw of ‘coming of age’ stories as they allow for the traditional angst, mistakes and dumbdumbs, but my whole goal is/was to write something after that point.
He talks about being emotionless, but cries at chick flicks? And while I like that he develops a friendship with Tessa, I’d much rather see more of it than be told about it.
Regarding the second point, I agree and will/would move that aspect up and add more. Regarding the first point, I didn’t say he cried, I said he got choked up 😉 I know that I have a lot of attributes that Seacay has (write what you know, eh?) and I’ve always been a bit wistful that I didn’t get the chance to go into combat when I was in the military. I know for certain that with just a little bit ‘worse’ friends after high school I would have slipped into the mode of Seacay (but probably no where as near as successful, my memory for details sucks, as does my ability to focus for long term (I write what I wish I had)). Considering myself a likely ‘conscienceless killer’, just an unproven one, I model Seacay after myself regarding the damn chick flicks (ever watch ‘Courage Under Fire’? Who knew a movie about war and blowing shit up was a chick flick; that happened to be the first movie I watched with my now wife and still acutely remember the pain of holding in the tears while we watched the damn thing).
Finally, I wonder about what really motivates him. We get clues that he’s in it for the thrill, the job itself, and he talks about all the money. But we don’t see him really using that money, apart from the costs of the job itself (which is usually funded by the client anyway) and the details about his lavish house at the end. What’s his endgame? I wonder if we might benefit from more clues about that – and perhaps a few scenes showing him really living extravagantly, which would make sense considering the dollars he’s raking in. Something to support that aspect of his character.
Another idea I really like. Some wining and dining (though he doesn’t do the wine part) and interacting with sophisticated, smart hot women, but not being entirely satisfied as he keeps thinking about Isabel.
A Few More Notes About the Non-Traditional Approach
It’s true that “not much happens” in a global sense in the novel. As already noted, Seacay is nearly invincible anyway, so it’s almost a moot point. But it is exactly the kind of criticism you’ll hear from agents or publishers. One of the issues is the abundance of “telling,” too. When you give us a scene that’s more immediate, you compel the reader more. Those are good. And the dialogue is pretty good, too. But it’s otherwise an overload of “let me tell you some things” and that will wear on readers.
I guess I would need some specific pointers where I need to shift from telling to showing. I understand your point, but have read quite a few authors that I like and respect and they often will tell just to move things along. I would rather ‘dwell’ on the plot points I think are important than invest a lot of time (mine and the readers) on what I consider points not germane.
And a Bunch of Other Things
The Heart Attack Dart – Is it a real thing? A believable fiction? Just noting this because all invented tech choices in a novel need to feel believable or readers will roll their eyes. Too many eye rolls and you lose them. Also, why doesn’t he confirm the death? Wouldn’t that be part of his job? Wondering if “trusting things are all good” is a reasonable expectation for a professional.
It may be a contrivance, though I feel there are almost certainly substances that can do what I intend, though probably at a volume large enough that even a cursory autopsy would reveal. I know there are a number of substances that are deadly in slightly higher doses than are used therapeutically, though, again, the volume may be such it is impractical. Still, when I go around depending on a needle gun that knocks people out before they can fire their own gun, I figure a small addition of a heart attack inducing chemical isn’t that far a leap.
Chapter Naming – I find myself often saying “don’t name the chapters – you’re giving too much away” to writers. But I kind of liked your chapter titles. They’re fun and don’t reveal everything that’s to come. But that’s a good think to keep in mind – if your chapter title could be considered a summary of the coming chapter, it might be the wrong thing to use. You want readers to discover the plot along the way, not be told “here’s what’s coming” first. (Small note – chapter 21 reads “Why am I So Cautions” and I suspect you mean “cautious.”)
To a certain extent, my goal with the chapter names is either a joke that the reader would (hopefully) get as they read, or a misdirection. I may have let a few slip out that were too predictive and probably need to rework them. When I am writing I just go chapter by chapter without any numbering as I expect to rearrange chapters later and don’t want to have to keep renumbering them (no doubt this could be managed automagically, but I generally focus on content creation and am practically a Luddite when it comes to technology (I don’t even have a cell phone!), this, despite being a professional programmer).
The Crude Joke in the Vent – I wondered if that worked as written. I mean, the decision to speak it seemed almost out of character, though I suppose that was part of his plan. Still, it really stands out like a sore thumb. Wouldn’t there be another way to get his focus back? It’s probably fine, but it jumps out at readers as surprising, and not necessarily in a good way.
Maybe I do need to remove/rewrite that, but it was a key scene I came up with early and I feel shows them both struggling with their feelings for each other. I also want to show that Isabel is struggling with their relationship as well.
Time Table – I wonder if you can include dates (even just general ones, like season or month and year) at each Part of the novel, or chapters that occur much later than the previous ones to help readers see the passage of time more readily.
I have already tried working on some of those issues pointed out by other readers. One of the reasons I set the ‘parts’ off with blank pages is to try and clue the reader into a time jump. I also feel that Seacay, in adapting his diaries, would be cagey about some of those details, but I can also see that he would conclude he should make some stuff up to help the reader. I’ll think about how to go about adding more such flavor.
Language – You often refer to the fact that a character is speaking this language or that. This can be fine, but also, when overdone, quickly becomes a distraction. Only mention it when the plot demands and you’ll be fine.
Yes, I see I can let the reader assume he is using whatever language is appropriate. Interestingly (to me, anyway), this particular element has been driven home in thinking about how to adapt this to a screenplay. On the one hand I hate sub titles, on the other hand, I hate Anglicizing everything, particularly since I think non-US viewers might be a significant fraction (at least I would be targeting them, were things to proceed to that point).
The Signals – I wonder if the story would be more interesting if Seacay and Isabel hadn’t created signals to flash to each other when meeting in the future. Then there’s more “hmm…how’s this going to turn out” in the readers’ minds and that could be a good thing. More uncertainty/mystery is a good thing. For novels in general, and romance in particular. Again, I’m just looking for natural places to add some intrigue. It’s the little things like this that can make a novel stand out.
This is an ‘expert’ element where I figure they would have made these arrangements almost automatically. As I said before, I don’t think I emphasis enough that they spent several sex-filled days at the end of their first job and no matter how fantastic the sex is, if nothing more there has to be some conversation while the body recovers. I think if I am able to effectively get that point across that perhaps this element won’t be as out of place.
Chapter 4 – I wondered just what Secay wondered – was that whole thing too easy? I’m fine with characters who are unusually skilled at their job, but so far things have gone pretty much without a hitch for our protag. You mentioned in your note that this isn’t a traditional narrative approach to the genre (well, depending on the genre we’re talking about) and that’s fine. But when you have opportunity for some added tension or obstacles, you might as well take advantage of those moments. More tension means more intrigue means more reader engagement.
This I’m not sure about. To my end, I feel creating things that trip up Seacay are going against what I’m setting out to do. Later in the book I try to show he is not invincible, but particularly at this point I want to show that he is (largely) a master. The vulnerabilities I want to show (perhaps not well) is that he is out of his comfort zone because of Isabel. I can see to adding more layers of evident distraction, perhaps catching his mind wandering or something like that.
Chapter 7 – Is that specific cocktail believable? It strains credulity just a bit, since it does all the intended things and that might be a bit too convenient for some readers. As noted earlier, we could use some errors and mistakes early on in the story to make our hero less unbeatable.
Again, if this is not a leap of faith the reader can make then probably the whole story is moot. Just to add to your point: I’ve had complaints about this particular aspect when I mentioned the drug results as they were happening and modified the story to show the drugs being selected ‘laced with some additional special ingredients’ to ameliorate that complaint. This event (giving the second a specific drug cocktail) isn’t spontaneous, it is the result of a long period of careful planning on Seacay’s part. I’m trying to tell the story entertainingly, but quickly, to show his expertise is more than simply tripping people going down some stairs or shooting them with a needle gun.
Agatha – It’s rather convenient that S. has a contact with just the right equipment so nearby to where he happens to be. Just noting the “plot convenience” elments because too many and you get reader disengagement.
I suppose she could be further away, but then I feel I stall the action too much. Of course, I could drop her all together, but I’ve included her in subsequent action and in any case, I wanted to show that he isn’t just about unbelievably beautiful women, but is more about personalities once there has been interaction.
Exploding Bullet – So Seacay is an engineer of ballistics? Hmm…reminds me a bit of a scene in that George Clooney movie, The American. In fact the novel has shades of that (and maybe a touch of Mr. and Mrs. Smith as well, without the humor). Just made me pause a bit because it’s one more thing that makes him “perfect” and that can be off-putting. (Along with his great shooting skill, skill with women, disguise-making ability, photographic memory, etc.)
Once again back to the ‘experienced’ issue that I’m trying to do. I agree that I could drop the entire section, but wanted to have some back story for Tessa and show them interacting and developing friendship. I could just drop Seacay’s story and keep Tessa’s if you think that achieves what’s necessary. I guess this also applies to below as well.
Chapter 15 – Would love to see more showing vs. telling here. Seacay says “I am surprised how much I think about her” about Isabel, but it’s been three years, right? I wonder if readers are going to wish they’d had a scene or chapter earlier that showed us this longing, rather than suddenly say “I think about her a lot” once three years has passed. Maybe we need a small chapter before this where we see Seacay between jobs, just living his life but wondering if he’ll run into Isabel around the next corner. Watching him try to have a kind of “normal,” considering his job and his current love for Isabel could be interesting to readers.
I agree that some transition is helpful. Perhaps a good place for one of those ‘living it up’ scenes where he is having a great time, but is seeing Isabel everywhere he looks.
Chapter 16 – Not much to this chapter, really. Nearly a filler chapter. I wonder if the important bits could be incorporated into a different chapter.
I think the content is important, but can see your point in spreading it around. My goal with this whole section, though, was to show the reader how he goes about his recon by assuming persona that allow him to vanish. I was trying to make his earlier ‘vanishing’ acts more believable by showing some of what was involved in making that happen. I guess this applies to the below as well.
Chapter 18 – The second half is very “talky,” which could be an issue, but I do like the fact that Seacay begins to ponder the whole “trust” thing. I just thought that might be something that would have come up long ago, considering his general lack of trust (as noted earlier).
Certainly talky, but that was my exact point. I wanted to show them interacting non-sexually. Perhaps the marathon dialog needs to be broken somehow, except I don’t want them to interact physically and don’t really see them being this intimate at, say, a restaurant.
Chapter 20 – I like the backstory stuff here. You do repeat the “average guy” theme that’s already been established, as well as the “I have a good memory” thing, though. Also, the first kill seemed a bit far-fetched.
I can see I’ve hammered home my average looks and memory aspect, but I want to show him getting started before he joins the military and this story seems plausible to me.
Chapter 22 – This is a good example to illustrate what I mean about Seacay being “perfect” and nearly a superhero. Even when things don’t go as planned (he slipped up in his planning?) he happens to have the access and skills to accomplish his goal anyway. He can tamper with meds? Hmm…one more skill that shows up just in time to save the day. Here’s another way to look at it – it’s like Batman’s utility belt in the old TV series. He has exactly what he needs (or in Seacay’s case, access to exactly what he needs) just when he needs it. It strains credulity just a bit.
Perhaps it was my choice of words regarding the ‘tampering’ with the meds. I use ‘adulterate his meds’ when all that is happening is he is swapping out much higher strength versions of the same drug (later I say ‘I’m exchanging them for much higher doses’, but perhaps the initial verbiage clouds the perception). In my mind this doesn’t show anything particularly super human, he knows what meds the target has been prescribed and even if he didn’t already know the result of higher doses he could learn that trivially.
Chapter 24 – The bartender comment “I wonder how he keeps track” seems out of character. Doesn’t Seacay have to keep track of multiple things at once? Maybe instead he’d feel a kind of affinity with bartenders? Also, you spend almost as much time on the sex scene with the two women as you do in the earlier scenes with Isabel. Seems out of balance to me. Maybe we need more Isabel on the page earlier?
Maybe this was too cute, or letting too much of the author’s mind in, I’ve always wondered that so felt like articulating it. I can see that Seacay might actually not be impressed at all, or even have an affinity, like you say. As I’ve said, I think my first sex scene needs a massive overhaul and with that done correctly, I think this scene might fit in better.
Chapter 25 – This seems awfully familiar to me. Most of the chapter is redundant themes and claims by Seacay. Once you get to the actual job (“It is nigh on two weeks…”) it starts to feel new again.
Maybe it depends on the reader. I’m trying to show a variety of methods Seacay can use to take out targets and am trying to avoid repetition. I also figure that Seacay would be interested in showing off the breadth of his skills, and everything else has been urban, so wanted something outdoors. I also figured it would be an ideal way to weave in his evolving thoughts. In considering this section for the screen play adaptation, I was actually thinking of conveying much of this information as flashbacks where he would discuss these elements with Agatha, Tessa and Jim. I can see interweaving those discussions within the body of the novel, perhaps that would ‘speed things up’ on the job.
Earlier… – You use the “Earlier, I did this…” form a lot in Seacay’s narrative. That’s fine because you can’t show everything in “real time.” However, an abundance of this usage can steal the edge from the narrative. If you’re going back to say what he’s done “before” too often, the reader starts to lost the all-important sense of immediacy that comes from the first person present tense approach. And you need that, to help with building tension.
I agree in principle, but need specifics in order to focus enough to come up with alternatives. Perhaps, if I persuade myself to move forward with this writing, I can get your “Red Pen of Life and Death” or “Comprehensive Edit” and you can point those locations out.
Not a Target? – I had to wonder throughout the novel why Seacay could just get away with all of these kills, etc., without anyone targeting him. Maybe he’s just that lucky? But wouldn’t clients want to cover all their tracks, and if he’s a loose end, he might be considered one of those tracks? Just wondering aloud on this one.
I like this idea a lot. I can show him noticing observers and having to make some detours in order to avoid them. I can also see him taking some active measures from time to time to steer the observers in the wrong direction or temporarily incapacitate them. This could add some interesting flavor.
Chapter 26 – It’s more of the same “I have a great memory” and “I’m good with disguises” braggadocio here. And maybe that’s my issue with Seacay in general – he keeps repeating himself about all these skills (and tricks) he has (and uses), and that repetition starts to make him less appealing/compelling.
I suppose I could do away with the chapter, but felt it was important to show the reader some of the effort he puts into his layers of disguise.
Chapter 27 – The painted on eyes? On the boy? A bit of a stretch again, but mostly I was bugged by the shift in narrative tone to talk directly to the reader (“Come on, you didn’t really think I would do such a thing…”). I’m wondering if you even need this chapter. It’s quite a bit different from the rest, though perhaps even more unbelievable. And it’s gruesome, so it’s going to turn off some of your readers.
Several people have complained about this chapter and while I agree that it is discordant, I am trying to show the breadth of his skills and figure this is a realistic job he would take and also one he would feel is worth while relating to his readers. I am open to alternative ways to convey what I want, meaning how to show him doing a psychological operations job. I get that when there is a theme with readers there is an issue that needs to be addressed and in this case I am not so attached to it that I would want to stick with it, but I feel something like this is important.
Chapter 28 – This feels like it’s coming too late. Too much after the fact. Just show us that scene with Tessa earlier in a chapter that’s more immediate. It will carry far more emotional weight that way. You can have Seacay show a hesitation there, even, if that works for him. Something to suggest he’s thinking about Isabel when Tessa walks out of the shower. We could use more moment of “showing” like that, as already noted.
As I think I mentioned above, I agree with the idea of moving this earlier in the book.
Chapter 29 – Tessa’s long explanation about Isabel is really wordy and a bit on the nose. It doesn’t come across as organic conversation – especially for someone who is upset. Dialogue here could be more fractured, as I would expect from someone in a near panic. The patterns of dialogue can reveal as much about the characters as the words themselves. Also, in this chapter Seacay one again manages to do everything right. Wouldn’t this be a place where he might fail? That could raise the stakes a bit for the reader.
I like the idea of showing Tessa upset and frustrated and think doing so would increase the drama a lot. Last night I thought of having her get tongue tied and punch the dash or something, then Seacay realizes that he’d seen a bunch of bumps in the roof of the car and can see knuckle prints in the headliner and cracks in the dashboard. BTW, don’t really get the ‘bit on the nose’ reference, where does that come from? Going with what I recall in my reading, I would interpret ‘on the nose’ as being ‘right on target’, the opposite of what I think you are trying to convey.
Chapter 31 – We can add architect and builder to Seacay’s list of skills here. Hmm…he doesn’t sound real. And Isabel’s story to proclaim and explain her bisexuality? That’s the stuff of male sexual fantasy, I suppose, but it’s not needed in this moment. Less is more in this case, and this is a case of “more is more” instead.
Well, I’ve designed and built a house (along with my wife, the two of us doing 90%+ of the work) as well as an indoor pool/greenhouse, all from reading books, so it doesn’t sound like any sort of stretch to me. My goal with the story about the bondage is to show how Isabel and Tessa came together, to make it clear that they have had a long, loving relationship. Perhaps it comes too late for proper impact.
Chapter 32 – The male sexual fantasy continues. Will it appeal to men? Some. Women? Maybe not as much. And while it was nice to get the tour of Seacay’s place, it just kills the story momentum. Maybe we needed some of that earlier, if at all, though it’s another bit of evidence that Seacay is The Perfect (Self-absorbed/Self-confident) man. Some of your readers will want to be him, most will think he doesn’t exist (which is true). Yes, it’s a novel – in a way, a pure spy/assassin fantasy – so going over the top is somewhat expected. But I think there are opportunities to make it a little more believable, without losing that “fantasy” element. Thus, all my previous comments. The ending, while again an attempt to humanize Seacay a bit (his acknowledgement that Isabel needs to feel feminine after all she’s been through) comes awful fast, and in a strange way emphasizes his lack of nuance in understanding women/love. It’s kind of a “duh” realization that she would need some time, so for him to state it, while correct, just comes across as saying what he’s supposed to say. It doesn’t resonate.
I did intend some of the ‘duh’ part, he is still adjusting to his new emotional state. Going from a misogynist to a partnership should have some rough patches. I also wanted to (quickly) document some of the ‘what comes after’ that rarely seems documented. Perhaps, as you say, it is too much. I have read a number of complaints about how Tolkien seemed to go on and on about the whole bit back at the shire in LotR. I can see adding some of the elements scattered around the rest of the book, that would make this chapter much shorter.
My final thoughts…
I appreciate you picking out a ‘few good words’. I write ‘naturally’ in that for the most part it just flows from noggin to keyboard. When I edit, it tends to be more along line editing, so overall structure doesn’t change. I’m guessing, by you avoiding any mention of the funds/time to pound this into acceptable shape, that either you don’t see that as happening without too much work on your part or you aren’t sure I’m capable of taking editorial direction. If it is the latter, then hopefully the comments above will allow you to either conclude you were right or offer hints that I might be someone you could work with. When I have asked for input on business proposals I’ve written (a silly hobby that, so far, hasn’t made me a buck) I prefer to get back a ‘trashed’ document and hate it when I get back otherwise. I want to have to defend the elements I think are critical, if I can’t convince a professional editor that they are important, perhaps either they aren’t as important as I thought or, as is likely in this case, I’m just trying to do something that doesn’t have a ready market.
I get that there may not be any interest in what I’ve written. I get that finding an agent (just the foothill of the Everest climb) could be a nightmare, even if they like it (I’ve had a couple of what seem that sort of response, I can relay them to you if you’re curious). And I completely get that even with everything happening to get the book published, the reality of the publishing world may mean that even a potential best seller languishes because no one gets a chance to learn it is available. It is against this backdrop that I find your overall response so maddeningly unsatisfying. Though I fully expect the need for a fairly decent back list in order to bring in the money I’m targeting for retirement (I would be happy with $50K/year, according to my projections that leaves enough in our retirement that it continues to grow rather than shrink), one of the reasons I started with a several book series, if I can’t get the first book sold because agents/publishers won’t put effort behind it, I think it may be time to cut my losses. However, you encourage me to keep writing. If, after reading all this (assuming, of course, you’ve read this far) you think I’m not capable of being edited into something salable (meaning I’m too stuck on my baby to consider changing it where necessary), I think my clear course of action is to put it all behind me. Of course, if you answer that I can take enough direction that you don’t think the dollars spent on a comprehensive edit you are just leaving me just as messed up as before…
In any case, thanks again for your critique.