Ring Box

Yesterday I met again with my writer friend who has an agent. We talked about the vast amount of marketing involved in being a successful self-publisher, and the dangers of trying to navigate through publishing house contracts on one’s own. We talked about how whether or not a person can land an agent might a good indicator of whether they are ready to be published.

One particular question of mine that she laid to rest was about paying an agent. For me, this was a big question, because most consultant-types tend to charge hefty amounts for their services–which means that I would have to wait quite awhile to be able to afford an agent. But she assured me that agents work off commission only, and that if I have to pay an agent up front then it’s a scam. This is why agents are so picky about the works that they choose to support, and why they are so dedicated to making those works sell. My friend also said that the reason why many publishers only accept agented submissions is because those submissions tend to be more polished.

And then we delved into my story itself.

I expressed to my friend my concern that my first volume does not have an actual plot…and after I summarized the course of the book, she agreed with me. She told me there is a difference between a story and a plot, and not all books have actual plots.

So here I have a story, but no plot. Because I’ve had so many ideas over the last several years (even when I wasn’t actually writing them down), I’m not exactly stuck with having no plot. But the difficult part about implementing a plot into my story (beside the fact that volume 1 is background) is that my story is not an adventure. Many fantasy novels and romances feature an adventure as the plot or subplot. My story does neither. There is no heroic journey, and you may question whether there is even a true protagonist. This is intentional. I’m illustrating that there are no true “protagonists” in life; everyone has their faults, and a few have their glory moments. But volume 2 (or 3, if I stretch it out) is different. It becomes about fighting off Pandora for the sake of the world–which, in all honesty, my main characters only care about where it concerns saving their friends’ and their own hides.

Volume 1 is background. And as my writer friend said, every good first book has an untold backstory. I already know that every volume could stand alone as a complete story in its own right. So I stepped back from my series as a whole, and considered what could be taken out or linked together to narrow the entire trilogy down to one plot? I had an immediate list of take-outs for volume 1, seeing as it is backstory. I could cut out the childhood and teen years, and begin with Labriella dodging suitors without any effort at all. I could take out the entire “ladies of the evening” saga, and switch to my original small-role idea for the “prostitute” who helps Rome with his female-oriented problems. I could mix the nobles and Pandora and the temple conflicts inextricably together, and eliminate the time gap between these events and the final volume.

What would suffer?
The entire tone of the story would change.

Originally I meant for this to be a fast-pace story. I had no trilogy plans, and I was experimenting with a more abrupt style of writing (as those of you who have been with me since 2008 may remember from the first draft of my prologue). But I grew older, traveled, and started helping a friend correct college essays. I took two British literature classes, a freelance writing class, a theatre appreciation class (in which we read plays), an Ovid-centered English class, a philosophy class, and a psychology class. My writing style changed, and with it my focus onto the emotio-psychological, tempering the OCD in Labriella and allowing me to delve deep into my characters’ psyche (to put you, the reader, there as well). I developed an imagination-triggering fixation with nature, which finally rounded out Rome as a character.

My publishing major friend once called my story a ring box (as opposed to another’s “teddy bear” fantasy story). I never understood what he meant, until now. The purpose of my story is to showcase my characters, and all their living facets. I am only now starting to grow into this style. If I focused primarily on plot movement, it is the psychological embellishments that would disappear, and the heartstrings-pulling events of volume 1 that would become obsolete. If I were to take out these features, would my story still be a ring box? Would my ring box sell even without those modifications? Because I get the impression from my reviewers that it is my character development and my voice that are unique. Unique is important to me.

There are things that I do not want my story to become just for the sake of selling. Plot-oriented is not necessarily one of them. In fact, I always meant for my story to have a plot. It is slightly disturbing that volume 1 does not. How can my own book not have a plot, when I know so well what a plot is, and I’ve spent so much of my life looking for it in others’ works?! But maybe that’s because the plot is meant to span the two volumes, not be individual to the first?

I may try editing out some things, and see what happens to my story–whether it makes it better, worse, or just plain different. But it’s already going on a week since I posted chapter 6. I need to get on chapter 7.

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