There are two categories: General Fiction and YA Fiction. Luckily, I happen to write in the latter category, so I’ve decided to enter.
Unfortunately, after revisiting the novel I wanted to use, I realize it kind of sucks. Oh, I used to think it was all that. In fact, it was the greatest thing I’d ever written and couldn’t possibly ever write anything better. What an idiot.
I had shopped it around, got several rejections, and a handwritten note from one of the editors that said they really liked it but couldn’t use it at the moment. I was even allowed to send the first 100 pages to a literary agent based on my pitch. She told me she didn’t quite connect with the main character as strongly as she needed to.
Now after several years away from it, I can totally understand why. My protagonist is so guarded even with me. There’s nothing warm or endearing about her. Sure, she’s all tough and jaded, the kind of girl you want in a fight, but there’s nothing vulnerable about her.
I had a very sharp conversation with her yesterday (and yes, I was talking out loud). I told her if there’s one person she has to be honest with, it’s me. I can’t tell her story, and it’s a good story, if she doesn’t let me in. I don’t even know who she was before the story started. Oh, of course I know what happened to her (we call that backstory), but I don’t know what she was like. What were her hopes and dreams, who were her friends, how did she act? Believe me, I filled out all the personality/characterization sheets, but I was going on what she was telling me, and it wasn’t the whole truth. I’m not even sure if any of it was the truth or just what I was coming up with because she was not very forthcoming on her own. The main thing I’ve learned is that your protagonist cannot hide from you or the reader. Sure she can hide her true self from the other characters until it’s necessary, but in order to make a connection, she’s got to be real.
Good news: I might have gotten a glimpse of her last night, and I’ll be hounding her the rest of the day on giving me more. Bad news: from what she’s showing me, my whole story is going to change. Well, not the plot things, but definitely how she acts, how she reacts, the relationships she forms with people. I don’t think I can revise the first 3000-5000 words by the time submissions open, which consequently is at midnight. And though I’m a little more than bummed if I don’t get a chance to enter, at least I’ve been made aware of this fatal mistake. (Thanks, K, for that!) Who knows? I might just get accepted on another round of submissions.