It was one of my favorite expressions as a teenaged girl. I was a very odd sort of teenaged girl.
I’m in anguish. After having written a detailed outline of my Ayleth/Dragon story, and come within 5,000 words of finishing it (I can write 1,000 words in an hour) I realized two things.
One, it felt dull. True, the dialogue was engaging and the physical setting was rich and colorful; the plot was well-conceived and the storyline was meaningful. But it was set in a very generalized sort of fantasy village and it’s full of manufactured culture. I’ve never exactly researched village life.
Two, no boy would ever read it because it had no action, but was full, rather, of conversations and subtle interpersonal nuances. Even at the climax of the story, where Werner steals the Dragon’s heart, it’s done by trickery and a swift slash of the knife. I may not change that but it seems like there should be some running and jumping and racing and maybe even a little fighting somewhere.
So, being the honest person I am I instructed Scottie to tell me that my story stinks. He carefully framed his answer in such a way that he said no such thing but I pretty much knew that he felt it could use some work.
Now I know a lot of people laugh at the idea that a person’s spouse could be their true best critic. However, one of our earliest dates involved us sitting in a Steak-n-Shake while I slurped on a malt and listened to Scottie critique and analyze, from memory, the entire plot of Great Expectations. (Half of you guys were turned off by the idea of a girl slurping, and the other half wished your own wives would sit silently and let you make a speech that long.)
Well, in short order Scottie had outlined for me exactly what he thought I should do with the story. I pressed him a little more, argued a bit, and asked him to tell me exactly why A Wrinkle In Time still sells. (Because it combines fantasy and science fiction, usually set in the past and the future respectively, and plops them in a thoroughly modern setting dealing with stuff we deal with.)
So here’s the decision. I have to re-write the book entirely – now you see why I’m in anguish – and put Ayleth in the house I grew up in, outside a little Wisconsin town in our time and world. She’s going to discover a secret reptile world – just exactly what I would have loved at that age except it would have been fairies instead of reptiles – and move back and forth between the two worlds. She’ll bring the Dragon back with her, he’ll burn some farmer’s fields and go home. The farmers will take Hannah Drasp and Ayleth to court over it, and Hanna Drasp will tell Ayleth that the only way she can ever be forgiven is if she goes back into the world and gets the Dragon’s heart. Werner, who she’ll have played with sometimes and been uncomfortable with other times, will help her out. Dr. Vegter, the best Dentist in town and Werner’s father, will befriend Ayleth and play a part in discovering that Hannadrasp has been playing with magic, setting Ayleth up to do what she did. (If Ayleth dies, Hannah gets the house, which belongs to Ayleth. If Ayleth brings back the dragon’s heart, she gets the heart.) It will finish up pretty much like the original plot. Except there won’t be a King to go to for approval and help once all’s done, so the ending will be much sadder in my opinion.
I also have to make Werner more of a main character and add in some action. These three things combined will hopefully make my book more appealing to boys and girls alike.
When I think of the fact that I first researched reptiles for this story three years ago, and that I almost finished my third draft today and that now I have to start all over again…
I’m in anguish.
P.S. Is this new plot too much like The Magician’s Nephew, anyone?