As you may remember, I was fortunate enough to have my query letter posted for critique on MSFV. I received a lot of good feedback and I learned that my query isn't as good as I thought it was. Put simply, it's FAT. It needs to slim down, trim up, and SHOW ME THE BEEF!
I was also lucky enough to have my query picked as one of the Authoress's top 5 which meant that I was able to post the first 500 words of my manuscript. I got a ton of quality feedback on this as well, some of it difficult to hear, all of it important. After these exercises and some serious thought, I've figured out 3 big issues with my story.
- My Setting is Confusing - My story is supposed to be set on some other world (which one isn't supposed to matter) at some unknown time (when isn't supposed to matter) which bears a superficial resemblance to ancient Rom. Unfortunately, it appears that the world I've created is TOO similar to ancient Rome. Every beta reader that's read the story has ended up confused because the world seems like ancient Rome but the characters (and their mannerisms, language, etc.,) doesn't fit in ancient Rome. My setting is taking my readers out of the story because they're trying to figure out when and where the story is set. I need to make some serious changes to show that the story is not set on our world, past or present.
- Genre Confusion - This problem is directly related to the first problem. It seems that, largely due to the setting, the first part of my story comes across as historical fiction or historical fantasy rather than epic fantasy. I've put in a lot of thought about this and actually, with the exception of some exotic critters and one non-human character, there isn't a lot of fantasy in my epic fantasy story. With some minor changes it could easily be historic fiction or even science fiction. I need to add/clarify some story elements to further define my story, even if that definition isn't what I originally had it mind.
- My Story Starts Too Late - Crap. Ever since I started paying attention to writing blogs I've been aware of one of the cardinal sins that every writer cautions about: starting your conflict, your actual plot, too late in your story. I thought I heeded this warning. I only included NECESSARY BACKSTORY...except that maybe I didn't. Even if it my backstory is necessary, it should be worked in later in the story. I need to re-work my beginning.
I have this...idea...expectation...whatever, that my story SHOULD be done. Five years is a long time to work on a story so it SHOULD be done. I just turned 30 so my story SHOULD be done. I have other stories I want to work on so this story SHOULD be done.
Or should it? There are no external expectations or demands for my story. There is no logically derived deadline. All of these "shoulds" are arbitrary. They're constructs of my imagination. They're a glitch in the matrix.
My story is done when it's done, not one word before. Whether I choose to continue working on it is a different issue. But there is no should.
Do you let "shoulds" creep into your writing? Can they be a good thing? What do you think?