To start off, we’re moving.
We’ve finally reached a point where the cost of rent was going to be equal to or greater than the cost of paying a mortgage on a house, so back in April we started house hunting. After several false hopes and close calls, we found a nice one. Unfortunately, it was a short sale…which meant we had to get approval from the bank that owned the house before we could get it. The typical time frame on that sort of thing averages at about 6 months.
Last weekend, we finally got our approval. That’s actually pretty good time for a short sale…but I really would have liked to do all our moving over the summer, before school started. Alas. We’re getting our inspections done this week, and hopefully we will have a closing date sometime after that.
I have been slowly packing boxes these last few weeks (more quickly now that things are moving along). I don’t know how we ever managed to fit all this stuff in here, I really don’t. Ugh.
Oh, and school starts next week. Thankfully, since we have a contract on the house, I’m going to be able to register the boy at the school near the new place (so he won’t have to transfer after a few weeks). So along with packing, I’ve been out buying school supplies, and soon I have to take him to get registered.
We’re also cat-sitting for some friends of ours. So…three cats in the house right now.
And packing is only the beginning. In the next few weeks, we’re going to be painting, cleaning the new place, cleaning the old place, moving boxes and boxes and furniture…and then we have to UNpack all this stuff. Have to get a cat door for the porch. Have to buy a washer and dryer (thank goodness the folks who owned the house last left the refrigerator!). I’d like to get the garden I have planned started.
And my poor boy is going to be transitioning to a new school while all this is going on. But it will be fabulous to have more space. We have a porch! And a backyard! We can store bikes in the garage and holiday stuff in the attic! Luxury upon luxury! I’m pretty excited.
Real life revisions aside, my Free story is also undergoing a major overhaul.
I finally heard back from the agent I was hoping to hear from. They didn’t take the story on, but they DID give me an extremely detailed report, which has been extremely helpful to me. It’s probably the best piece of feedback I’ve ever gotten on a piece. (Next time I see this agent, I will thanking them profusely).
One of the things they said was that because the story featured all non-human characters on a purely fantasy world, it might work better as a middle grade novel. Now, my first reaction to this was “What? No! Nonononono, gah!” And part of me still feels this way.
I have a big, big problem with the belief that high fantasy and nonhuman characters and talking animals and magic somehow only make sense in kids’ stories. Or that the presence of these elements automatically makes a story a children’s story. (I’ve seen this same belief manifested in the way America treats Japanese anime. Just because it’s animated and has magic and/or talking animals DOES NOT mean it’s appropriate for kids. Read up on how many things they had to change or leave out to make Sailor Moon showable to a young audience, and that’s a MILD example.) And really, the sheer volume of high fantasy sitting on the ADULT fantasy/sci-fi shelves ought to prove that very point. Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson, George R. R. Martin…these guys are writing some of the best high fantasy on the market, and it bloody well isn’t just middle-schoolers who are reading about Fae and Chandrian and chasmfiends and dragons and Others and Allomancers. Hell, I wouldn’t consider LotR a “children’s” story, if it came down to it.
( I actually had an argument with my local library when I found a copy of A Game of Thrones on the YA shelf. “Oh, it’s there because kids are watching the show and wanting to read the books”. THAT BLOODY WELL DOESN’T MAKE IT A YA NOVEL!! Would you want YOUR 13-year-old to pick that up thinking it was one of theirs? Let them get it from the adult shelf if they really want it. YOU SHELVE BY INTENDED AUDIENCE, NOT POPULARITY! NARGARBLE!!! But anyway.)
I think, however, what really bothered me was the two things that would have to change in order to make Free a MG novel. Namely, Sen and Liss’ wingfasting and Karu’s death.
At first I’m like, “No! I can’t change that because theme! Because tragedy! Because winning has to cost something! IT WOULD RUIN THE WHOLE TONE OF THE STORY.”
But after I calmed down a little, I asked myself, “Okay. Does Karu really, truly have to die to make this story work? I know, I know, sacrifice, love, blah, blah…she absolutely has to do what she does, but does she have to DIE? Would it render everything she’s done null and void if she lived?”
Surprisingly, the answer was, “Possibly not.”
And immediately, I saw how things could be reworked. She can’t stay on Castle Rock afterwards, that’s very clear…but I’d already given her a way out with Yishani. That groundwork is laid, I’d just have to use it. The last letter she writes, in story, could be moved to the very ending and become the epilogue…I was never 100% happy with where it was anyway; it makes it sound like Karu has come to terms with losing Sen, and then later it’s clear she’s still upset about it. The placement always made Karu feel a little wishy-washy. And if Karu lives, I can do something with her that I couldn’t do the way it’s written now.
I can re-cripple her, and make it well and truly permanent this time. I can make her wings the price she pays to save Aelara. That works really well on a thematic level; it would be like her giving her wings back to Sen. (She never really owed him her life, anyway…it was always about her wings). I always meant for Karu to regain her wings partway through the story…it was a necessary milestone for her…but I was never satisfied with leaving it at “oh, okay, she can fly now, that’s that”. It felt cheap, especially in a story I wanted to appeal to people who have to live with disabilities. And Yishani would certainly take care of her.
The story ends on a bittersweet, but kind of sad uplifting note right now. Letting Karu live and leave would create a different kind of bittersweetness…maybe more of the kind at the end of Fool’s Fate.
And leaving out Sen and Liss’ wingfasting wouldn’t change much, really. Heck, I could leave the ceremony in and turn it into more of a betrothal thing. Not a marriage, but a “make the relationship semi-official and see where it goes” kind of thing.
Aside from that major plot change, one of the things that all the agents who’ve looked at Free agreed on was that the worldbuilding felt incomplete. Now I actually tend to overdo it when it comes to worldbuilding…I could info-dump all day long. Because I’m afraid of going into info-dump mode, I tend to overcompensate in the other direction, and end up not putting enough details in. Plus I hate writing description. Hate, hate, hate it. Clearly I haven’t found a good middle ground yet
A good deal of this current revision has been me expanding on a lot of the concepts I’ve come up with and deciding where I can slip them in. This will, of course, probably increase the word count. But here’s where my problem is. If I really am going to try and re-work this as an upper MG, I would actually need to cut the word count.
A lot. By like, 20-40%.
Typical MG runs from about 50 to 80k. As it stands, Free is about 92k. That’s on the upper end of YA, honestly…and I’m going to try to ADD stuff and then make it MG?
I don’t think it can be done without sacrificing story, and I won’t do that.
So I’ve been toying with the idea of splitting it in two, right down the middle. Two shorter books, one longer story. The second half of the story takes place over a short span of months, as opposed to the beginning, which covers years. A split would almost make sense. I’m going to try it with this revision, although I don’t know how I’d pitch it if I did that. You never break a book in two…it’s always at least three, or it’s a series. I don’t even know what a story covering two books would be called. Not a book and its sequel. Not a trilogy. Eeeeeh…I just dunno.
On the other hand, I’m not about to try and pitch a 110k MG novel. I’d probably get laughed out of the room :/
I’m also trying to come up with a different title for the story.
Free is a bland, unexciting, terrible title. It was a working title, a result of me just not being able to think of anything else and not really wanting to spend the time on it. Well, I think the time has come to put some thought into it. I have put some thought into it.
I still can’t come up with anything that leaps out at me. Meh. It will come, I guess, eventually. Maybe I need to go looking through some song lyrics.
I don’t imagine I’ll be updating a lot in the next few months. Between packing, revising, and trying to keep up with my drawing, I’m kinda swamped.