If you’re here looking for my GUTGAA Pitch Polish entry, go here.
I’m within sight of finishing the first draft of my YA alternate history, THE BARD’S GIFT, probably next week. So it’s time to look up and start thinking about what I’ll work on next, while the first draft cools a bit.
I have plenty of choices. Revisions to MAGE STORM are certainly at the top of the list. I have another story in first draft that I need to get back to, BLOOD IS THICKER, the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL. And there are a couple of short stories that I need to polish up. I have a pretty good idea what to do with all of those stories. And that’s certainly enough to keep me busy until I can go back to work on THE BARD’S GIFT.
But, even though I may not start working on it yet, there’s one more story I’ll at least be thinking about as I try to figure out what to do next. This story was my first completed novel (if you don’t count the thing I wrote in college–and I don’t). In that incarnation, as THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, I thought it was a mainstream fantasy. Now, that version has so many serious flaws, I’m not even going to try to list them here, but, in spite of those flaws, I still love the characters and the whole arc of the story (which was always intended to be a series).
Therefore, last year about this time, I started a rewrite, this time as middle grade. I called it MAGIC’S FOOL and had even started the sequel, MAGIC’S APPRENTICE. The original story had to be changed, of course. Some elements had to be dropped and in order to tell a complete story in about half the length I had to choose a different central conflict. I like the results and was planning on going back for another round of revisions and then polish it up.
That was until WriteOnCon, where I found out that agents and editors don’t want stories with main characters betweeen twelve and fourteen years old. Bummer. My main character in MAGIC’S FOOL was thirteen. (He had started out as fifteen in THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.)
So now, I have to go back to the drawing board and decide what to do with this story. It’s not an easy choice, like MAGE STORM, in which I can easily change or delete a couple of elements and make the protagonist younger, say around eleven. Thirteen was already pushing the limits on just how young this character can credibly be.
So, as far as I can see right now, my choices are:
- “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.” Just ignore this age limit or maybe delete the one or two references to the protagonists age and go ahead with it as it is. This feels a little like trying to swim upstream (even more than is normally the case).
- Keep the story as it is now (more or less) and just make the main character a bit older. Go back to fifteen as he was in the original. To do this credibly, the story would have to be expanded by about half again as much (from around 50,000 words to somewhere around 75,000 words). There are things I could expand. There are also a couple of subplots that could easily be added–and which would add depth to the overall plot. I’d be betting that agents and editors really mean it when they say they want boy YA stories.
- And the third possibility would be to go back to the original story line and central conflict. I’d still have to rewrite it, of course. That would actually be better and easier than trying to revise it. This version has what may be a more satisfying central conflict. That’s a draw, frankly. Now, I could still go two ways with this. I could still try to make it YA. There really aren’t any plot elements that are inappropriate for YA, although I might handle one of them a bit differently. Or I could just leave that alone and let it be a mainstream (adult, but not in a sexy way) story.
I’ll be giving this some thought as I work on the other revisions I’ve got stacked up.