I think it was Jane Yolen who said she liked writing for kids because you didn't have to dumb anything down. Whoever it was, I find it funny that ANGLES is by far the most structurally complicated book I've ever written. I have five protagonists who begin the story together, who are split up into smaller and smaller groups until everyone has their own individual story arc, then who all come back together, split again, and are brought back for the climactic scene. I was unbelieveably proud of myself for pulling it off. Still am, actually.
And, in fact, when I got rejections on it, they tended to say things like, "Great structure, characterization needs work." After you get about four of those, you start to think that hey, maybe the characterization needs work. Because of that, this book's been trunked since ... well, very nearly two years. I was busy moving across the planet and writing eighteen zillion other books and besides, I couldn't see what was wrong with the characterization anyway.
Reading the book yesterday, for the first time in a couple of years, started to give me a handle on what "characterization needs work" meant. It's a question of emotional integrity, of emotional growth, of motivation, and of (this one I inherently understood, I didn't know what to *do* about it) giving the children different voices. Much of that is internal, and right now it's missing from the book. Five years ago, when I wrote this book, I would not have been able to see that (obviously, or I'd have done it then). Two years ago, when the book got put aside, I might've had a glimmer of what I was supposed to be doing, but I don't think I could've /fixed/ it. Not well, anyway.
Now I can. I hope, anyway. :) I've got the tools to understand the problem now, which is most of the battle. The rest is just putting my head down and doing it.
Other things I discovered in reading it:
1. arcaedia is right, the beginning is no good. (That's not what she said. She said it starts off slowly and I might want to think about rewriting it. Two-three years ago, I said no, I was happy with it the way it was. Now I see she's right. I don't yet know what to *do* about it, but she's right.)
2. Despite the first few pages being weak, the beginning of the *book* is very strong. About the first third--until the children split up--is very good. The middle third is considerably weaker, and the final third, when they're back together in one form or another, is also very strong.
3. Teresa Nielsen Hayden may be right about the end. But then, there's a very specific reason for the book ending the way it does, so she may be wrong, too. I haven't decided yet.
Much of the weakness mentioned in #2 comes from the lack of emotional integrity. Some of it comes from the individual stories needing strengthening.
To that end, I've just gone through the manuscript to pull out each kid's story and put it into its own individual file so I can really focus on those stories without any of the other childrens' baggage. I wrote the book interwoven because I desperately needed that entanglement to make the pacing turn out right, but now I need the separation to make the story turn out right. It's going to be a pain in the *ass* to put it back together, but it'll be worth it if I can turn those into really strong individual quests.
I seem to have run out of whatever thought process I had going here, so that's it. :)
miles to Dunharrow: 29