First, a weather report: KNIM reports we've had six inches of rain since it started on Saturday.
When I opened the mailbox yesterday (we just got back from Omaha), I said, "Aww!" There was a big ol' envelope in there the exact same width as my Symphonians novel.
But, a very nice letter on top from the boss:
Dear Ms. Cordell:
First off, you have done a wonderful job revising THE SYMPHONIANS. It is an incredibly honest and moving protrayal of adolescence. You have turned Kathy into a believable and relatable heroine. It is easy to see in her facets of millions of teenage girls -- her hesitant speech, her constant internal monologue of self-correction, her daydreams of having the right words to correct any problem. Her painful awkwardness is clear in the narration -- bringing the reader to not only sympathize with Kathy's frustration with her inability to get her words out but also to root and hope for her happiness.
(Hooray! I'm getting there.)
Nevertheless, I still have reservations about the manuscript. It still feels overlong, and I can't help but think it might be nice if it were about 75 to 100 pages shorter.
(She's right about that ... I got nervous printing it because I was using so much paper!)
The Symphonians trouble me. I liked and cared for them very much as characters, but I wish there was a clearer transition between Kathy's life and their story. A disconnect of some sort exists -- I felt like I was reading two separate stories that were thrown together simply because they both deal with domestic abuse. Granted, there are points in Kathy's narrative where she wishes she could be like one of her characters -- but she wishes to possess aspects of their personalities in situations that don't have anything to do with domestic abuse until the end of the manuscript. As a reader, I desperately wanted some tangible connection between the two stories that I could hold on to -- I wanted to know the events that triggered the manuscript to transition from Kathy's narrative to the Symphonians and back.
(I've had other people say the same thing, too. I thought I had finally dovetailed the small novel into the larger one -- apparently I haven't yet.)
There are problematic areas of connection in the manuscript ... and several nagging questions left unanswered (Do Noel and Kathy get together? Does Kathy finish the Symphonians's story because she no longer needs to fill the emotional space in her life with their presence now that she has friends like Yvonne?). Important characters like Noel and Kathy's mother are not developed enough. I wanted to see some sort of positive interaction between Kathy and her mother (I couldn't see any sort of connection between them -- highly unrealistic for a mother-daughter pair who appear to be trying to figure one another out) and Kathy's father is relatively non-existent (odd for a man who is said to have spent an entire morning helping out his parents next door repair a shower rod).
(She's right about that too.)
Then the letter details some smaller issues that need work -- a couple of places in the MS that seemed author-engineered, not organic; a soap-opera-like moment; some odd quirks in Kay's character that seem too odd. And then the final sentence, "If you do choose to revise again, please know that I'd be happy to reconsider this."
So I have that going for me.
Anyway, here's where you-all can help. Does anybody know of any books that feature a novel-within-a-novel? I need some models. Also, if you know of any writing books that address the narrative-within-a-narrative issue, point them out to me. I could really use some guidance on that front.
I'll go over the Symphonians today and tomorrow (it is a big tome) to try and see the story through fresh eyes. Then back to work on the raccoon story until the end of the month, just to keep my momentum up on it. I'm not tired of working on it yet, so I'm reluctant to put it aside. And that'll give my unconscious mind time to mull over the Symphonians and work up some ideas.
So ... not good news, but not bad news either. I can deal, though I'll moan and groan under my breath when I start figuring out how much work is really in store for me!