Now that I’ve published my first novel, I can look back and be appalled at all the mistakes I made on my way there. Okay, okay, I probably still don’t see ALL of the mistakes, but I see some, and here is my mistake #329–which for me proved to be the most pervasive, most time-consuming, and the hardest to eradicate. You see, I liked my imaginary darlings too much.
When my novel Into the Blind went live on Amazon this summer, I described it as a young adult paranormal novel, but it did not start out this way. Long, long ago, it began as a fantasy/science fiction hybrid for middle-graders. I had a brilliant vision for this book. There would be parallel worlds, a Hogwarts-like school, kids escaping their strict teachers, mysterious cities, and even a wicked queen. There would be mind reading and flying trains, were-pigs and sentient planets, time travel and the kitchen sink. It was a disaster, of course.
Undaunted, I re-wrote the novel, but as I did, I came up with more brilliant ideas. For instance, why not endow my were-pigs with psychic abilities? And wouldn’t it rock if my protag was blind—but could still see? And perhaps I could age my characters and throw in a love interest. The novel’s plot became a maze, and its page count reached a number that, were it dollars, I would have been set for life.
Yes, looking at that number, I knew I’d have to be ruthless and throw a lot of stuff out. BUT ALL OF IT WAS GOOD.
Well, after much mental anguish, I did start tossing things overboard. For better or worse, I threw out all of the science fiction elements. I said good-bye to the mind reading, the Hogwarts-like school, and were-pigs. I bore that loss the hardest. But anything for art, right? And besides, it did improve the novel, which became shorter—only a hundred thousand or so words—and much more orderly. And yet I still couldn’t find a publisher.
That’s when I finally hired an editor.
She was good. She asked me hard questions about my plot. So my characters go on a huge quest just because they misunderstood each other? Is that really enough motivation? And what is the purpose of the wicked queen in the story? And why do I have a blind protagonist who can see? In fact, how does she actually do that? Well, let me tell you, by then I was happy the were-pigs were history.
I spent the next year rewriting the novel yet again, but this time I forced myself to look away from all the shiny possibilities and concentrate on an emotionally believable plot. And what I got was a story of two paranormally gifted teens who were deeply in love and could have been happy together if only the boy didn’t resent that his girlfriend’s gift was more powerful than his. At once I knew how my blind protagonist could see: through her boyfriend’s eyes. And as for the evil queen…well, she came in handy when the boy started pushing the girl to choose between him and her gift…
It wasn’t all roses from there. I still got carried away now and then. But in the end, Into the Blind came together, and I am so happy and proud to see it published.
P.S. Don’t tell anyone, but the were-pigs live. Because I’m still going to write something about them.