Stealing The Marbles
The end of 06 draws nigh, it’s snowing in Albuquerque, and I have finally finished the rewrite of Stealing The Marbles.
I liked the story well enough the first time around. It got me an agent, however unprofessional that agent may have conducted himself during the time he pretended to represent the book. I must take some of the blame for the time lost. I should have confronted him long before the moment I actually fired him. That I didn’t was due, in part, to not understanding what a good author/agent relationship should be (and I have Backspace to thank for my understanding, now, of what it should be), and partly out of my own fear and inability to confront things.
Such is life. We live and learn and trudge ever forward.
Though it’s often hard, if not nearly impossible, an author needs to know when to walk away, begin the next one. And during the time my agent was pretending to represent STM, I completed Meter Maids Eat Their Young. When I finally gathered the courage to fire the son-of-a-bitch agent and began to moan the fate of STM, my friends at Backspace said keep walking, onward to the next, and the next after that.
Good advice, as always. But STM nagged at me. At quiet moments I could hear the characters shuffling about, whispering their impatience. I made several attempts at book three, several different story ideas, but I couldn’t concentrate on any of them. I couldn’t walk away.
So I relented, opened the file that had gotten me a dunce of an agent and began a slash and burn trail from first word to last, looking closely at some of the criticism I’d received from my author friends at Backspace.
As I said, I liked the story as it was. Sure, it was slow to open; no nuclear bombs, no mass murder, no serial killers or horrid monsters hiding in the shadows of the first few paragraphs. Still, I liked it; liked its linear flow, the pace that steadily increased throughout the book. It seemed to fit the characters, the story itself. But something was wrong. The very few editors the agent had sent STM to had rejected it. I received no feedback from them, of course, if indeed the agent hadn’t lied to me about who the manuscript had been sent to.
Of the feedback I received from other quarters, two stood out in my mind, the first from an agent who a friend at Backspace mentioned the manuscript to. The agent was seemingly confused by the prologue and suggested that I expand on the theft from the White House of the Gilbert Sullivan painting of Washington. The problem there, of course, is that was not what the story was about. The theft of that painting and the prologue was simply a vehicle for the actual story, the act which puts the protagonist in exile and gives a hint to the reader of his personality. The story is about the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles not the Sullivan painting of Washington.
Suffice it to say, the prologue is no more.
The second bit of criticism that stood out was received from a friend at Backspace and had the most profound effect. Though it hurt at first, as oft time criticism does, it had the effect of turning me back to the novel and for that I’m grateful. In short, she said the first chapter was an info dump. And, however much I liked that first chapter, she was right, it was.
Suffice it to say, the info dump is gone.
There is still no nuclear bomb, no terrorist attack, no blood or guts contained in the first five words, or five paragraphs or even the first five chapters (though there is a fist-fight of sorts). It still moves slowly, though not as slow as before, gradually increasing in pace as the story of the theft of the marbles unfolds. But it gets there faster and I think it’s a tighter, more interesting story for that.
I hope one day you all get to judge it for yourselves. I’m certainly going to try and make that happen.