I’ve had several assessments done on two books.
One was very recently. The others were for my first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, more than ten years ago. This process should be eye opening. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.
With my first book, a woman who was recommended to me provided three assessments for three consecutive drafts. She was brilliant.
One thing she did was circle certain words throughout my manuscript and scribble ‘best word?’ next to them. This made me dive into the thesaurus and find a more accurate word for that sentence.
To this day I often revisit a sentence just to challenge my choice of a single word.
After her wonderful assessments, I got a useless one.
A new publisher released a novel I really liked, and they offered manuscript assessments done by a team. I took up their offer and oddly, before I had my report, someone pointed out that I already had an assessor who understood what I was writing. I quickly learnt why this is so important.
The new team got several plot points wrong in their report, and one even suggested that the story might be better set in a monastery. The novel is set in the theatre district of the afterlife, and so much of the plot would make no sense among monks. Unless two have amnesia, they put on plays, and one has wings but can’t fly.
So, what was my most recent assessment like?
Unlike the others where the full manuscript was submitted, this assessor only wanted the first 4000 words and a tight synopsis which highlighted certain major plot points between the protagonist and the antagonist.
We had a really productive Zoom meeting where, besides receiving some really constructive feedback, I explained the rest of the story and spoke about this novel’s two sub-plots.
In the portion of the novel she read, she felt the opening chapter had too many points of view, and one scene in that chapter had no relevance. I already knew that ‘irrelevant’ scene was a problem and had reworked it, but hearing this voiced in our Zoom meeting made me realise I should have trusted my own instinct and hit the delete button.
I took many notes and am now looking forward to going deeper into my character histories and their motivations, as well as strengthening the first chapter.
I also need to find a theme.
This advice was interesting because most of my other work has a central idea which is explored, then ‘spelled out’ right at the end. With this manuscript, nostalgia drove it. It’s set in the 90s in Sydney’s queer scene and centres around three gay characters and a straight love triangle.
At this point I think the theme is about exploring what it means to be a friend, as this still works in the context of the love triangle because one of these characters is also trying to weaken the wider friendship circle.
If the theme of friendship is my final starting point, then my next step is to give my characters stronger, more theme-driven actions.
Before my first novel was published, it went through a major rewrite.
My first editor taught me so much more than my wonderful assessor. And while I still object to the three sex scenes she made me add to Drama Queens with Love Scenes (there were none to begin with), the final product is miles ahead of the version we initially worked on.
This is why I’m excited about the next draft of the 90s project. A lot of it was researched and, as I’ve worked on many drafts, the scenes are well written. This doesn’t mean the manuscript can’t be pulled apart and reconstructed because a rewrite doesn’t mean starting from scratch.
As I learnt writing the final version of Drama Queens with Love Scenes, working from a strong foundation makes this process a lot easier.
OTHER BLOGS ABOUT THE NOVEL SET IN THE 90s
- I’ve written several versions of the same short scene!
- I’m replacing an entire character
- Help! I’m writing a synopsis for a book submission.
- Realising your manuscript needs work!
- Over think your novel between drafts.
- Writing about music without infringing copyright.
- Researching the Sydney Gay Scene of the 90s – Part 1
- Researching the Sydney Gay Scene of the 90s – Part 2
- Researching the Sydney Gay Scene of the 90s – Part 3