I borrowed an hour to meet up with my book editor yesterday to discuss my manuscript, LAMBS FOR DINNER. Can I just say that even though I don’t seem excited about having my book published, my heart actually does a somersault every time I think about it? I’m just trying not to get my hopes up too much before anything’s said and done.
Anyway, so I met up with Geraldine, who is super nice and very dedicated to making local YA a much bigger thing in Singapore than it is now. She brought along her pages of hand-scribbled notes and listed out which parts of the manuscript she loved and had problems with:
1. Drew – she loved him. As do I. I think it’s obvious to anyone reading it that the character has a special place in my heart. I didn’t have to work very hard on getting his voice right, or making it consistent, because his voice was just IN MY HEAD THE WHOLE TIME I wrote the story. Drew is irreverent, defiant, and there’s this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke’s LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET that I feel describes him: “Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” I had loads of fun writing Drew.
2. Skye – my editor didn’t quite love as much. And come to think of it, all my female protagonists sound alike. They’re insipid, two-dimensional characters who observe rather than act. I don’t know if this is a reflection of myself, but I somehow always seem to relegate my main character to a supporting character. Geraldine thinks Skye’s history and inner emotions should be played up, or at least revealed, more, so that the readers can empathise with her better and actually WANT to read her story and not wonder why Drew would fall for such a watered-down character. Geraldine and I discussed female protagonists from books like Becca Fitzpatrick’s HUSH, HUSH and Cassandra Clare’s THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, and I grew to understand my responsibility as a female writer to present a believable character whom readers would be able to relate to and WANT to relate to.
3. Pool she liked, and wishes I can dig deeper and flesh out the nuances of the character even more.
4. The abduction was confusing to her because of many missing details and explanations. I was afraid I might overload the reader with too much information and have them skip over paragraphs, which was why I did more showing through dialogue and action rather than telling via exposition. But tell too much and you risk boring your readers; show too much and you risk confusing them by leaving too much up to interpretation.
5. The ending kind of got derailed, according to her. She said I started off the story with a strong build up, but then the ending became about something else – a subplot – and the main thread got lost or forgotten or skimmed across too conveniently to the extent of being unrealistic. For example, would a girl whose repressed memories of her abduction when she was six years old still leads to her experiencing panic attacks be able to forgive her abductor so easily when she meets him again after twelve years? Geraldine says there needs to be some form of closure for Skye.
It does seem like my story is too scant on the details now that I read back on it. As writers, we often don’t see the faults of our stories because that’s how the stories come to us. But to a reader, there are many things that may not add up or are not wholly developed. Which is why it’s so nice to have an editor with a fresh pair of professional eyes point out the problems with my story and suggest ways to improve.
I left that lunch meeting with Geraldine wishing more than ever that I could write fiction full-time.