The Hard Part

I got a pass on WANTED: CHOSEN ONE, NOW HIRING today. This particular agent has looked at BLACK MAGIC AND BARBECUE SAUCE as well and is very good about giving feedback with rejections. What struck me today is that his comment was very similar to a comment Elizabeth Poole gave me when she beta-read the story.

Bastin is a more likable character than Nashau or Podome. This isn't disputed, trust me. Bastin is your classic high charisma, high energy flimflam man you find in many fantasy novels. That was one of the reasons he wasn't the main character. I've seen him before. Or at least, I've seen other characters with that attitude (Bastin keeps himself out of the cliche gutter, I think). And regardless, it wasn't his story I wanted to tell. It was Nashau's. It is a story about unemployment in a fantasy setting. I saw the story I wanted to tell and I told it.

But here is the feedback, this story would be better with Bastin as the main character. A story may be better with Bastin as the main character, but that story wouldn't be this story. And there's the hard part.

Completing a novel is difficult. Revising that novel is challenging. But rewriting the novel? That's flipping hard.

Revising makes a story better. It fixes flaws, improves weak structure to make it stronger. It's an essential element of professional writing. Rewriting is taking the fundamental aspects of a story: it's plot or theme or characters or setting, and telling a whole different tale.

Now, the agent did not say "If you rewrite this with Bastin as the main character, I will represent you" which saved me a lot of hand-wringing. But the implicit statement of "I'll look at this again" was (I think) there.

Since I received that email, I have pondered and pondered and pondered whether or not I could tell WANTED: CHOSEN ONE, NOW HIRING with Bastin as the sole main character rather than 1 of 4 (with Nashau being the primary main character of the group with Jara being second). The first half is easy. There's a lot of stuff early on with Nashau and Podome that could be cut. If they're not main characters, those chapters are unnecessary. But that leaves me with stuff later...well, those chapters balance because of the foundation I built with those early chapters. I don't think I can revise my way to a Bastin-centric story. I'm too attached to the story I told and still believe it is better the way it is.

What happens when this happens later? What happens when it's an editor and I'm contractually obligated to deliver and they say something like this? I'm terrified. I've always known it's a possibility, but was able to ignore it because I'm still looking for an agent. It's hard to stifle that gut reaction of, "No, it's better this way" just because that's the way you told it. Really, rewriting is asking for a different story than the one you've told but with the same stuff included. Ugh! That's so hard!