Over the past week, I’ve been reworking Holland Bay. What was once a sprawling, incoherent mess is getting whittled down to two primary POV characters. I’ve been asked to do this by an agent whom I’ll name when the agreement is signed. As of this writing (Sunday evening), I’ve already cut 40 pages from the previous draft.
I know there are a bunch of more experienced writers and quite a few neophytes who just read that and now look something like this…
I feel your pain. There was a time in my life when I looked upon such requests as “BUT I ALREADY WROTE THE BOOK! I’M DONE!” Of course, if you go traditional, you’re not done until the book goes to press. Your agent will want changes. Your editor will want changes. Your copy editor will want changes. Sure, independent publishing cuts out a few of those layers. It’s also why indie publishing is, as Chuck Wendig terms it, a “shit volcano.”
But in this case, I can’t really argue. I started out trying to merge The Wire with Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct. Only here, Carella and Jimmy McNulty have been combined into a thirty-something woman who’s burned out on her job. The problem with the original is that the POV characters multiplied like jack rabbits. The draft I had Brian Thornton edit for me had fewer POV characters, but it still had a number more appropriate to a season-long television show than a 90,000 word novel.
For my main police character, I’ve only had to write one additional scene to keep the story intact. There is a gangbanger, though, who has had to take on new scenes to make up for the loss of some other characters’ scenes. Otherwise, the story holds up well.
I am sad to see some scenes go. A whole subplot about Branson’s eventual partner has been cut out. But if this sells, it’s going to be a series. I can always put him through the wringer in a later chapter. One cut actually saves me some trouble. A character looked way too much like a familiar character from one popular police show, something I never could get him away from. The character remains, but he’s going to be a mystery. With fewer scenes, and none from his point of view, he’ll be kind of a cypher. Is he really a good guy trying to get out of a bad life? Is he a villain who works behind the scenes? If this is successful, I have at least six more books to tease that out.
Hopefully, I’ll have some good news about this come February. Until then, back to work.