Not everything is subjective. Writing is.
I have gotten enough feedback on my second completed version of “Swamis” to know that what I feared might be true is true. I tried to pack too much information, exposition, backstory; way too much backstory into what is, at it’s heart, a very tellable tale, even a very readable novel.
And it still could be. It will be.
I sent the latest manuscript out to, as I recall, six, maybe seven people I trusted to be honest in their (subjective) assessment. So, while one of my contemporaries (age-wise, surf experience-wise) initially was into it, farther in he was less so, bogged down by drop-backs and time-changes and such. Okay. Legitimate comment.
One of my oldest clients, a woman who has run her own successful business for the more than thirty years I’ve know her, and who is well read enough in the detective novel genre to spot any hole in a plot (including in some episodes of “Vera,” which Trish and I love; including “Bosch,” also one of our favorites), admitted “Swamis” is a difficult read, but said, after heroically completing the first, ‘unexpurgated’ version, that she remembered and “really had a feel for each of the characters.” Partway through the second version, she said the manuscript had “Sort of European feel.”
I’m fairly sure my taking this as a compliment is, subjectively, correct. I read a couple of the American paperback detective novels she gave me. So American.
My third review came by way of e-mail and included apologies for not loving it, a sentence on knowing what I was going for that included ‘a slice of life,’ and something about ‘cutesiness.’ Give me a second to defend myself against that slander. No cutesiness, I was trying to make fictional characters seem real with anecdotes, ‘slices of life’ if you will, that reveal something that might render a character more complete and authentic, or give context and background on why that individual behaves as he or she does.
Actually, while I am grateful that reader (claims to have) made it though both versions, I mostly wondered why he was sorry for not liking something he read rather than wrote. I should be sorry.
And I am.
What still kind of nags at me is the non-responses. Either the manuscript is non-readable or, maybe, silence is better than hurting my obviously-sensitive feelings. It isn’t. If I am sensitive, I’m way more determined. If, in order to have “Swamis” published by someone other than me, I must cut out more side stories than I already have, I will. I will, and I will (continue to) publish those little slices and chunks here.
So look for them, but bear in mind, I have faith in the underlying story AND I have other things in mind for “Swamis.”
Wait; do I sound angry? I am as angry as I am determined, but not angry with the messengers; they just tried to read stuff I’m trying to write. I’m going to Sequim tomorrow, maybe I’ll get a copy printed up of the latest manuscript, stick it in a box next to the ‘Unexpurgated Version.’
I’m thinking a little backstory on Rusty McAndrews might be the first of the second round of “Sideslipping.” In the future book, he might only be identified as “the kind of upperclassman bully every freshman in the locker room fears being noticed by.” In the outtake, he’s worse.
Wait, I just have to add this: I was describing “Swamis” to Rip Curl (real first name Chris, Curl might be spelled differently), from San Diego (Coronado, to be precise, but he now lives in, urg, Rancho Bernado), the father of one of several twenty-something surfer/farmers trying to make a go of either or both of these things in the Pacific Northwest. “Guy gets burned up against the wall of the Self Realization Fellowship. Another guy was ‘overrun’ in Vietnam… and survived. The main character is responsible for the death of his father.” “Sounds kind of dark.”
“Really? I mean, really, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of, um (I’m imagining Kafka, laughing as he writes), European.”