Writing, and Phantom Stories

Nearly a year ago, I began submitting my novel, Honey Ko, to agents. In all, I queried about 65 agents, 24 of whom were kind enough to respond with a gentle “decline.” One agent’s response was so kind I imagined her typing my rejection while crying and feeling dreadful, just dreadful that she couldn’t represent me. I nearly responded with a “There, there. It’s okay. It’s all my fault.” Most of the agents said Honey Ko wasn’t what they were looking for, or wasn’t what they had hoped it would be. None offered specifics or advice.

With those rejections in mind, as well as the final comment of my editor: “This manuscript does not work. Your main character is not likeable,” I decided to revise the novel. I changed the name to A Wished-For Love, revised the opening, made my main character likeable, and revised the ending.

phantom1As I revised, I came to realize that I had unconsciously written another story – a phantom story! – between the lines of Honey Ko. That was a major revelation, to say the least. I had already outlined a second book based on a subplot of Honey Ko. The basis of that outline – my Susanna essays – is what the phantom story turned out to be. So, with my book revision in mind, I decided to incorporate parts of my Susanna essays into A Wished-For Love. This move effectively changed the plot, and that was okay: The original plot was thin while the revised plot gave the novel a fuller, more complete feel.

As I continued to revise another realization popped into my mind: my writing had changed. Yes, indeed. My writing vastly matured in the three years since I began writing the novel. I had joined a writing group on Facebook, Writers World (the only writing group on Facebook I would recommend), started this blog, wrote countless essays, became enamored of writing poetry, tried my hand at lyrics (the hardest work of all), was one of four writers invited to submit essays to an anthology (Four Feet Down), and generally learned and applied every rule of writing I could find.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to write, but Writers World taught me to refine my writing. I don’t want to appear arrogant or conceited, but I knew naturally how to develop characters and locations, pace my writing, give it cadence – that’s what being a voracious reader does for you. I thank God for parents that encouraged my reading. Yes, they did tell me to turn off the flashlight, put away the book, and go to sleep, but I know they said it with a smile and were proud of my reading habit.

As I wrote I gave A Wished-For Love an edge and added depth, I also added more dialogue and narration. The novel transformed from a novice writer’s (novice of any type of writing) first effort, to the work of a more seasoned writer. The change was noticeable immediately: instead of merely telling a story, I was writing a novel.

I have three chapters to revise yet, and then another read-through to check for continuity. Then I’ll be ready to query again. This time, I have a much better feeling for both the quality of my “pitch,” the quality of my writing, and the quality of my novel.

Fingers crossed. I’m submitting to the dreadful, crying agent first.

Images via Google

37 thoughts on “Writing, and Phantom Stories

  1. Jane

    A handful of my students free write whenever they finish class work and I will share your reflection with these young authors. Agents will say yes to A Wished- For Love.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kris

    It is crazy how a comment and a revision will change something completely. I have a Christmas children’s book I’d written and thought was done. A friend read it and made a comment which tweaked the whole thing into a much firmer story. I don’t know what to do with it now, but I don’t want to touch it anymore. Over tweaking is BAD!!!! This is an encouraging read, Will. Looking forward to your next steps!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Will Pennington

      Thanks, Stephen. I hope they do transfer to the novel. I’ve had to tell myself to write the same way in the novel, but it’s difficult to sustain that emotion with different characters.
      It may seem silly, but I do believe that, subconsciously, I wanted to tell Susanna’s story. I think the essays weave in well; it’s the main character that needs work.

      Like

    1. Will Pennington

      The editor said the main character should draw the reader in, gain the reader’s sympathy. The MC can have a tragic flaw, but the reader still has to like the MC or may not be inclined to cheer for her or continue reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. adeepermeaningsite

    I love it. It portrays your thoughts on what you were presenting and your hopes on the new one. It feels honest, which helps decide the emotions present. I love you accidentally wrote another story that was kind of hidden in the first one. That’s really cool. Presenting anything to supervisors is hard and scary, but you got feedback that helped you improve when revising the original.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. L.E. Hunt

    I’ve written several of those “ghost stories” over my first novel, and I’m just now getting it right. I received an offer from an agent only a month ago; hopefully that’ll work out. Good luck! Fingers crossed! And I love the humor in your post 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Will Pennington

      Thank you for reading, commenting, and wishing me luck! I finished the revision yesterday and am so pleased with it. It has a single, binding theme, tension, and a couple plot twists that I hope will leave the reader gasping for breath 🙂 This is my first novel, and writing it has been such a learning experience. I’m going to begin querying agents again this week while I make another pass through the book and tie up any loose ends.
      Good luck to you with your agent! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sonia G Medeiros

    I’ve written my current WIP through 2-3 times. Each time, I was searching for the right story. I’m finishing up the first draft of the latest version. I’m happy with all the major elements and expect there’ll only be minor tweaks for flow, pacing etc. It was frustrating to get to the end of a draft and realize I had to start again (and again) but I know it made the story better, stronger. And I can apply everything I’ve learned to future works so, hopefully, I don’t need to repeat the full rewrite process.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Will Pennington

    I agree with the lessons learned. I’ve found myself thinking that I don’t want to go through the phantom story element with every book. As you point out. every draft makes the story stronger. I’m happier with the story now and a bit more confident with its agent potential. Fingers crossed!

    Like

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