How do I know this?
One of the agents I queried actually took the time to give me some compliments and some pointers when she rejected my story. (This, after requesting my first fifty pages.) While the rejection still bummed me out, I felt like I had something concrete to work on. Radio silence and "This isn't for me" are expected, but actual advice? Golden. I also took a gander at Pitch Wars, and two out of the three ladies I applied to sent me encouraging rejections with constructive criticism. And you know what? They mentioned the same issue that Helpful Agent had: my intro had too much world-building/info-dumping. I should mention that my CP, Elodie, said much the same thing long before any of these ladies did.
The funny thing about all of this is that I always kind of had an inkling that my opening was weak. Deep down I just never felt right about it. I convinced myself that all of this info was just so darn important that it had to appear early on. Wrong.
But how to fix it?
After completely avoiding even thinking about it over the holidays, I'm now face to face with this thing and on a bit of a self-imposed deadline. (I'd like to have it sorted out before the SCBWI conference that I'm attending at the beginning of February.) Thankfully, a phone chat with my sister helped me to resolve some of the issues, but not all of them. I still don't know exactly where to open this thing so that it starts with "action and/or interactions between characters" (thanks, Helpful Agent ☺). I've always been one of those people who hates being tossed into a story without knowing what I'm dealing with, but I know I'm in the minority. Here's what I've figured out about fixing my sad sack opening pages:
- Not all backstory/information crucial to world-building needs to happen right away. I knew this, but now I get it.
- Not all of this information actually needs to be in the story. Really. Sometimes it's just a pile of extraneous words.
- Weaving this info into the story can add to the suspense. It can also keep the reader hooked, waiting for answers.
I also realized (following a question my sister asked me) that my timeline can be altered a bit too, which might actually help with some of the issues I'm facing. I've got my figurative red pen handy and I'm all ready to tackle this Montauk Monster once and for all. After I'm finished with all that fun stuff, I'll be reworking my query. Again. Wish me luck?
And just a quick reminder about my Pos-i-tute-ly Bee's Knees Giveaway: Have you entered for a chance to get your very own copy of Libba Bray's The Diviners? The giveaway is open internationally and ends Wednesday, January 16th.