Hot on the heels of the "Moving On" post from two days ago, I just received feedback from one of the agents who was reviewing my partial. While she was gracious in her reaction/rejection, stating that there is definitely potential in the story, she made it clear that the manuscript just "isn't there yet." She also made suggestions on how to revise and invited me to resend to her once I'd reworked the manuscript, which is something, at least, and I'm grateful she left that door open for me.
But now I'm sitting here wondering: is it worth it to keep working on this project, which I've been working on for more than 5 years and diligently for the past 3? While I knew there would be more editing to do on the novel, I figured that would occur once I'd secured representation. Now that doesn't seem a likely scenario as the agent suggests there's more wrong than just some comma usage. Granted, this is one agent's opinion, but, if I'm being honest with myself, most of her evaluation (the book moves too slowly, not enough tension in the beginning) is spot on (though she also suggested that some of the characters are stereotypical which I don't exactly agree with. I'm not one to create quirky characters just to create quirky characters. No Jonathan Safran Foer am I.).
The beginning of the book does indeed move too slowly, which was intentional as I was creating the idea of the town, a small farming community in Northwest Oklahoma. It's not an exciting place to live and I wanted to convey that, though I think I did too good of a job and bored my reader, which was not my goal. Even in Literary Fiction, where the author is given some allowance to indulge, the writing still has to be interesting and purposeful. The scenes, no matter how skillfully rendered, must ultimately move the story forward or else they're unnecessary. So, I'm faced with cutting chapters that, while they add to the ambiance of the story, the setting, they don't exactly advance the action.
At the Backspace Conference last weekend, we writers learned a rather violent, yet vital, piece of advice: "sometimes you have to kill your babies." We create them, birth them, nurture them, but sometimes we have to take out our trusty red pens and slaughter them for the sake of the greater good. It's a tough situation to find yourself in, but it's all part of the process of producing the best book possible.
So, here I am being asked to ready my little lambs for the sausage mill. And I shall do what needs to be done. So, come my pretties. This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you.