A year ago, I attended the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway in New Jersey to take a course in Finishing Your Novel with Carol Plum Ucci. I drove all the up to Cape May because I respect Carol as a writer and was excited to have a full weekend class experience.
It has taken me an entire year to fully process the experience. I left the conference on Sunday afternoon feeling discouraged. The main thing I took away from the critique was no one wants to read a book about a middle aged woman who gets cancer, I needed to totally rewrite the novel to be less “icky” and needed to think more commercially. Not bad advice. I spent much of 2011 completely rewriting Kitty’s story to center around her flawed marriage and added in another main character, Stacia, to give a community wide perspective. I like the novel and am currently getting it in shape to move toward publication, but …
I went back to the manuscript I brought with me last January looking for a specific scene to poach for Kitty and started reading it. I like that story. I still love the main character – she is snarky and opinionated and believable. At the beginning of the story, you want to give her a swift kick. I know, I know, the protagonist is supposed to be a sympathetic character that the reader can identify with. The reader may not want to see themselves in Karen but everyone knows a Karen. There is one in every PTA, every church committee, every town meeting.
A year later, I am thinking of ignoring the advice and going back to that abandoned manuscript. It will need some serious work. I will have to completely change her husband and where she lives but I think there is something there about how cancer invades a life that needs to be said. Anyway, I am going to let that story simmer on the back burner while I actively work on Kitty and see what comes of it in the end.