Where We Are….
Last summer, I got an agent for my mystery. Once reason I chose her was because she had good ideas on improving the manuscript. I made those revisions, which were not insubstantial, and in the fall the agent submitted to publishing houses. We didn’t get any bites. We confabbed in January, and she suggested I change the gender of the amateur sleuth to female because that’s what’s popular now, female sleuths.
My first reaction was, You have got to be kidding. I loved my main character; I’d paid an unbiased professional editor to read it; he loved my main character. Changing his gender would kill him off, him and his little neighbor friend. But after a bit, I thought, regardless, I had to go through the manuscript using the feedback we had gotten from publishers. If I had to do that boring work anyway, I might as well give the gender switch a shot.
I did, which required I change not only the main character but several other characters as well. The mystery is told in first person, and the entire voice changed. It was a big rewrite.
When the agent read it, she liked the new characters. That was the good news. The bad news was she thought the main character needed to be 20 years younger. So the character changed…again. And, because of some limitations in the plot, the change in age meant moving the time frame back 12 years. So—gender change, age change, time period change, voice change, and revisions based on acquisition editor feedback.
That’s not a revision. It’s a total rewrite.
It’s done. The agent read the first new chapter and was fond of the new character and her voice. But that’s just one chapter reviewed. The mystery has a lot of chapters. I expect a lot of tweaking still exists in the future, but I honestly don’t know if I have the energy to do any more rewrites unless there is money on the table. Which may or may not happen. As the agent said when discussing the gender change, selling the manuscript is not guaranteed even if I make the suggested changes.
At this point, it’s hard to remember why I wrote this mystery. The hero(ine) was once homeless. I was hoping that when people read the manuscript their judgment of folks experiencing homelessness would ease. They would like the main character as much as I did and, through the individual, would gain empathy. Maybe if I give up, erase all expectations, dial my hope level down to zero, maybe that will leave room for me to be surprised. We can only dream.