Heavy Work for a Little Improvement?

So I’ve got an age-old dilemma on my hands.

I’ve finished going through feedback on my 2nd draft of Dwarves of Katie Elder. It was depressing. Although, it’s not like I shouldn’t have expected it. The crux is the plot starts too late. Way too late. 28K words in.

But I knew that. I always knew that. I knew that when I made the outline, when I wrote the text. It’s kind of how “The Sons of Katie Elder” goes. I guess Westerns took their time in starting up plot. But the magic is in the dynamics between the sisters, not so much the plot. You don’t need plot for that. There are lots of things I could take out but the novel’s short enough as it is. Draft 3 is starting at under 80,000 words. A good novel should be 90,000.

So here’s the problem: do I spend a lot of time rearranging scenes, trying to push the plot up, and adding 10,000 words of scenes that are not the story. I feel like there’s enough filler as it is. There are lots of scenes that drag. Do I tear my hair out trying to make those scenes work? It’s a frustrating thankless job with no guarantee of getting published.

I started attempts at reconstructing the timeline today and it just made me angry. Not at anyone, but just the process–it’s going to take a long time to “fix” these things for some light at the end of the tunnel. TBH, I never started this novel thinking seriously about sending it to agents. I think it was just something to get out of my head. So the idea of putting all this time on it sickens me.

I guess I’ve figured out the answer to my own question. I’ll still do some things like moving the plot initiator up, removing the pointless parts of the first scene, but I’m going to do it so it’s minimally invasive.

Hell, maybe I won’t even do that. I’m not even sure I trust the person who gave me feedback–it’s not like that person’s story was an award winner. And there were quite a few critiques that related to personal taste.

I mean, I can see some readers being frustrated with the lack of kicker for a while. But also, I’m wondering what my audience expects out of a book about four female dwarves. It’s going to be a lot of world-building. Should I even bother ripping up that much of the floor when I’m putting down the same carpet.

And really, I want to get it done. I’ve even debated about just leaving the thing and starting something else, but Neil Gaiman’s in the back of my head saying “good artists finish things”.

I guess I could try to sell this novel, but who the hell knows who’d take it. Maybe it can become YA. It’s an interesting subject matter, but I guess I adhered too close to the source material.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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