That probably could have gone better.
As you may have gleaned from a prior post, I’m starting the networking and marketing and politicking I’m told will be needed for me to ever reach out beyond a close group of friends who’ll perhaps feel obligated to buy A Sword Into Darkness when it finally does go on sale. Part of that is joining up with the pro and semi-pro writers’ organizations in the local area. Today I met with Milt, a very nice older gentlemen who’s a fixture among the Hampton Roads Writers circles. He tried to find out what I was looking for and tried to relay what he and the wider organization could provide. As part of that, he asked me to send him a sub-assembly of the novel: First 10 pages, then various pages from three major plot points, pages from the climax, a two-page summary, a logline, and a description of the book in terms of other major books already out there. Today, we met and he gave his impression.
Yeah. Not a new fan apparently.
He was very nice and professional about it. He told me up front that he doesn’t read SF, his forte is more in the John Le Carre spy thriller realm, but he could give general advice and generally his advice is that I halt everything and do a full rewrite.
He liked the plot and thought the writing samples I gave him were great. He just really didn’t like the flow as related by the synopsis. He thought it was too jumpy, either accelerating too fast between scenes or skipping big chunks of time (it’s the latter, which is not apparent from the synopsis, granted). He loved the scene in Chapter 2 where Nathan’s ship is sunk, he just thought that it didn’t have a need to be in the plot and should probably go in a completely separate book. He thought Kris coming up with her enhanced photonic reaction drive, the device that drives the latter 2/3’s of the plot, was way too convenient. And he took issue with the character of Sykes, the SECDEF who is both venal and noble in his interactions with Gordon and Lydia in developing the destroyer, USS SWORD OF LIBERTY. (Apologies for the unexplained references, you’ll just have to buy the book to find out!)
Me, I think the issues were one (or two) of four possible things: My synopsis lacked the details that would have assuaged many of his questions–which is my fault–but the book itself is fundamentally sound. Or, my version of military SF / hard SF / space opera is just not his cup of tea (he, for one, did not know what a wormhole was or why it should mean anything to the plot). Or, he’s partly right and I’ve got some problems to fix, and I’m not so full of myself to believe otherwise. Or, I’m a complete hack and editors and agents were right to run from me screaming.
So, tough meeting. As for me, ASID is what it is at this point. I’m not of a mind to trash it and try again. I will take anyone’s edits and tweak the manuscript, especially if you’re a pro-editor and your buy decision rests upon those edits. And I know not everyone is going to love my work, nor that I’m the greatest writer with the greatest book that ever existed. But, at this place in the book’s existence, it’s time for it to sink or swim on its own. If Baen does not revise it or buy it, it’s coming out before the end of the year. I explained this to Milt and he agreed. I appreciated the look he gave it. We shook hands as we parted and I look forward to making use of his insight on future projects, but I wish we had come together closer on our opinion of ASID.
The day approaches soon and the market beckons. I only hope there’s more readers like me out there than like Milt.
What do YOU think?