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The Agony and the Ecstasy

Or at least the, y'know, mild enthusiasm.

I pick up this old manuscript and remember how much I love it. And I could finish it! And self-publish it, even, since no publisher will ever buy "Four Extremely Broken People Have An Adventure!" But I am convinced on some level that it must suck because I started it in 2006 and I must be much better now and so it must really be awful and I must be feeling some kind of weird starry-eyed nostalgia.

I carried this feeling around for years and then sometime today I went "Hang on, I started a comic in 2004 that won a Hugo, and I couldn't go back and edit it."


The brain makes a valid point there.

Actually, I started the goblin thing around the same time.


And then I think a bit more and think "How often do I look back at my super old art and go think anything other than "Urrrgh?"

Mm. Well, occasionally. Certainly not by default. Of course, that doesn't mean it's any good, either. Half of this book is Serious Business, trail of bodies, the horror, the horror and then the rest is snark. The snark is great but I don't know if it grafts gracefully on top of the rest.

And there's a romance--it's the one with the paladin and the ninja accountant--and I am just ass at writing romance. I start to feel all giddy and weird like I'm writing fan fic and what comes out is probably not romantic at all and goddamn these people are broken and if I have to write a sex scene I will probably drop dead.

I think I'm afraid I love them too much. It's dangerous to love a character. I attempted to explain this to Kevin...


ME: It can be a problem. It's like Dobby the house-elf.

KEVIN: ...

ME: You're all "Yay! I love this character sooooo much!" and the readers are all "OH MY GOD KILL IT WITH FIRE NO ONE LIKES YOU DOBBY JUST DIE ALREADY."

KEVIN: Meesa undastanda, Anakin!


KEVIN: Gotcha.

I will make him read it. And try not to hover over him twitching while he does, because 75K is a lot to read while someone hovers and twitches.

And then I'd probably have to finish the book anyway.

Oooh :0 Sounds exciting. Certainly nervewracking for you (we love you, Ursula) -- but exciting!

If it's any consolation, I certainly didn't have that kind of reaction to Dobby.

Seconding the not-violent reaction to Dobby. My reaction was wanting to wrap him in the fluff you use to stuff quilts with and hug him and let him know he is worth EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD.

If it fails, it will be an interesting failure. And if you have 75k of it already, you could probably sell it at a discount as a draft and make some pocket change because I don't think it will fail, and if it does, I am interested in how it fails and succeeds.

The ninja accountant? Slate? And the paladin with the dead demon? I remember those snippets! I loved them!

Seconded. And heck, try to get your agent to sell it.

If you can't get him to read it, you can probably get some minions to read it.

Also, despite what much of the romance genre does with the sex scenes, you don't have to go into the bedroom. You can fade to black if you're more comfortable that way! (On the other hand, if you want to write Teh Smutz because there are indeed character-evolving moments amidst the moans and "ow, my elbow!" moments, there are worse models than some fanfic. ...The good fanfic.)

(And remember, even Jar-Jar was redeemed by "Darths and Droids," where the immortal words, "Jar-Jar, you're a genius!" were uttered! (Because for a character played by a kid... hey, not half bad that way. >_> )

This. I favor fading to black, because the interaction between the characters outside the bedroom is why I read romance. Georgette Heyer for example. Understand the audience for your book. If they are reading the book for love and sex, then it's okay to write for that. If they are reading the book for all the other stuff, they would probably prefer you just get on with it.

I'm pretty sure "Four Extremely Broken People Have An Adventure!" is the formula for 68% of fantasy novels.

"...Half of this book is Serious Business, trail of bodies, the horror, the horror and then the rest is snark. The snark is great but I don't know if it grafts gracefully on top of the rest...."

Go read PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING by Christopher Moore.

Then make a fully-informed decision. :)

Comparing an old manuscript to old artwork is apples and oranges, because (as you have already noted) you can edit a manuscript. Or even do a complete rewrite on it, if your style has changed so much that you couldn't continue it and sound consistent.

Half "trail of bodies, the horror, the horror" and half snark? Welcome to the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Broken people frequently become less broken by undertaking an adventure of some sort. It's a trope. And you are very good at breathing new life into old tropes.

Romance stories do not have to include sex scenes; look at anything by Georgette Heyer. Same thing applies to romance subplots.

Having Kevin read it is probably a good idea. Having a friend who isn't your husband read it may be a better one.

I'm currently reworking a manuscript I wrote in 2007. If that's any consolation.

(the bones are reasonable, it just needed more fleshing out)

I would buy it. Or volunteer to be a minion reader.

I don't see it as killing characters as their existence assumes a birth/creation and a death/destruction and the writer is merely pinning down the details. This should free a writer to love their characters yet not hesitate to detail their doom

Wait a moment- those other two extremely broken people wouldn't happen to be Rail and the barbarian gynecologist, would they?

For God's sake, Ursula, at 75K yu've got to be at least halfway done and possibly 3/4ths done and if you're making Kevin read it you're obviously going to have to finish it, so you should send it to your agent and see if it's traditionally sellable.

Might this be one of those occasions where collaboration with someone who does romance you respect is called for?

I read a lot of paranormal/urban fantasy because I like books where the romantic element is not the sole focus of the tale and I actually find the sex scenes can be disruptive and annoying - less smut, moar story! if I want to read sex, I'll pick up something in the erotica or full-on romance genres.

someone else mentioned Georgette Heyer - if you haven't read her books, I'd second the recommendation. Frederica is one of my favorites, as is These Old Shades.

Edited at 2013-12-28 02:05 pm (UTC)

Go for it.

Suppose the worst is true, and it is not up to the standard of your usual writing. Not up to the usual standard of UrsulaV is still pretty damned good. Even the best writers have their off days, and their readers still love them.

But that is to assume the worst, which is unlikely. You love it, so the chances are huge that your readers will, too. For every Dobby or Jar-Jar, there are hundreds of characters loved by author and readers alike. And you will have saved 75K words from the Doom of the Dusty Drawer (duh duh duuuuuuh).

(And so far as sex scenes are concerned I am happy to leave it at the closing of the bedroom door, or the point the disappear into the bushes. I don't think the details of sex move peoples lives on very much. Yes, the fact that they have done it is significant, but who did what to whom and how is hardly important - assuming it is consensual, which is all the sex I want in my reading. So leave it at the bedroom door and pick up at the breakfast table. And let the rapes happen far off camera.)

Edited at 2013-12-28 02:22 pm (UTC)