I haven’t had a project update in a while.
I spent the first few weeks of revision sort of pretending like maybe I wouldn’t have to actually revise. As in, if I could find enough people who liked my manuscript then I wouldn’t need to fix anything. This is not a productive mindset, in case you were wondering.
What it needed was a rewrite of the first few chapters. So I rewrote them, one sentence at a time. I agonized over the tone and the voice and whether anyone would ever want to read about a frumpy woman who stumbles across something extraordinary. For those of you not familiar with the ordinary character gets sucked into extraordinary circumstances, this is called a portal fantasy. It’s basically the kiss of death. There are numerous agents who say they’ll consider anything except portal fantasy. And worse, it’s actually spec fic. Portal fantasy spec fic.
Sigh. The reason portal stories (a character goes from their everyday normal life through a portal to another world) are the kiss of death is because they are, well, to say the least, boring. They start with an average joe who finds the special book/ring of power/realizes they’re the son of zeus and then the adventure begins.
What’s hard about the portal story is that you have to know a little bit about the character before their choices make sense. Oh, and they’re usually pretty boring because we want them to seem like an everyday sort of person. So imagine trying to pitch a book where the first part is about Joe Nobody who gets lucky enough to find the portal to another dimension/power ring of awesome/suddenly can cast lightning from his nostrils. It’s like trying to sell ice to the Inuits, agents don’t want it, don’t need it, and they have it coming out their ears.
A lot rides on the first couple of chapters. That means pressure. Pressure means I write like zoo dirt (it’s nasty stuff), and I know it. I hemmed and hawed over my first three chapters. I rewrote them. I rewrote them again. For fun, I gave it one more stab. That’s the hard part of revision, knowing where the most scrutiny will be, and floundering through a revision because of it.
But now I’m in the part of the revision that’s all butterflies and rainbows. It’s the part that I love (I love writing action and anything that should be accompanied by the Bhum Bom Baaah! sound effect).
How about you, are you a portal story fan, or does the stink coming off portal stories make your nose hairs curl? (Don’t worry, I won’t tell the literary luminaries if you like portal stories, and I won’t blame you if you hate them—I’ve read some stinkers in my day too)