Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dressing the Room

Let's say you've got a lovely thing. A stamped concrete patio, perhaps, or a hand knit afghan, or a wall painted with an attractive faux finish. It looks nice all by itself, but maybe it could be better. Maybe it's even lovelier if it's got a border around it in a complimentary color. And maybe the whole takes on layers of added interest when that same color is repeated in a simple pattern across the piece.

I've got this book. I've been "almost finished" with Seek Ye First for months. All I had left were the Tying it All Together and In Which All Is Revealed bits. The hardest bits (surprisingly, since I knew all that I needed to reveal and tie together). Work was proceeding at a glacial pace. This week I worked hard, very hard, and FINISHED the doggone thing.

I'll pause for your wild cheers.

And now it's revisions time. I'm looking forward to de-adverbing and getting rid of passive tense and other awkward constructions. I'm looking forward to adding tension and cleaning up language. I'm really looking forward to rereading to see if it's any good.

But first I have a decision to make, about the frame, the border, the pattern. Seek Ye First involves a group of friends, some of whom are geeks, as they run around town on a scavenger hunt. One of the friends is a computer game designer, and her game is referenced throughout the novel as a significant part of the story, providing a potential motive for a crime.

Before the first chapter, after the last chapter, and between chapters throughout the book are insets from within the game. I originally envisioned these as fantasies, role-playing by two pseudo-anonymous characters from the main story arc. Two characters flirting and coming together within the game as a prelude to doing so in real life: modern geek love.

But after talking to agents about the book, I'm wondering if I shouldn't take these insets in a different direction. Instead of using the gaming scenes as escapism from the plot, maybe they should fuel the main plot. Maybe the suspense of the mystery should carry over into the game world, heightening the tension rather than serving as an escape from it.

The agents to whom I pitched the story liked the idea of the mystery bleeding over into the game. But the early readers who workshopped the first 8000 words or so of the novel loved the escapism bits as they were originally written. Neither group has the whole picture.

I just don't know. I've been trying to decide for months. And it's not like you can tell me; you haven't read the thing!

This is one of the hardest parts of writing, for me. This could happen, or this could happen, or this. But at some point, I have to choose a direction, go with it, and quit second-guessing.

(A friend who read the early chapters as they were first written concurs with the agents: add tension, not release with the insets. So that's the direction I'm headed as I revise. We'll see how it goes!)

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