I’m not a writer who starts off with a “what if” question, or who sees a movie or reads a story and thinks about how they would do it if it were their story. There’s nothing wrong with that approach to writing. It’s just not mine.
When I sit down to write a story, it’s because an image has flooded my mind and won’t leave me alone. It’s usually a fully formed scene, and the story is what happens before and after that snippet of time. The characters arrive fully formed, and once I learn their names, they, and all their idiosyncrasies, are elbowing their way into the story. It may sound strange, but in some ways I’m as much along for the ride as any reader.
My goal as a writer is to be true to the story as it presents itself.
In the querying process that honesty is being tested. I’ve received feedback and been pointed in the direction of quite a few interviews which essentially give me a list of changes I could, perhaps should, make to my novel to increase its appeal to agents and publishers.
Some to the changes are minor points, nothing significant. But others dramatically alter characters’ backstories which then changes the characters’ motivations.
I should note, I have no problems taking editorial notes and ripping my story to shreds in order to improve it. I’ve done it several times already and look forward to doing it more. These changes are not those changes though. These changes are to make it safer, more palatable in general. (And this novel isn’t even anything that extreme.)
So now I must decide if I’m willing to digress from the truth of the story in the hopes of making it something agents would like to represent.
For me, honesty matters.
As badly as I’d like to work with an agent, and as much as I want a publisher to publish my work, I have to be true to the work.
It’s not an easy decision because it means shelving a story I know is good and one which came so close to publication already. It’s setting aside years of work and effort. My one consoling thought is that, given time, perhaps I can pull it back off the shelf again, dust it off, and finally find a home for it.
In the meantime, I’m going to put it away and focus on other stories. Perhaps one of those will have greater success. Only time will tell.