I had New Gods critiqued last week. It should have been the final stop on its way to submission, nay, publication, and that may still be the truth of it. But I received enough common complaints that I feel a pause might be of benefit.
New Gods, to those not in the know, is the third (and final?) novel in the Antarctic trilogy that began with Night Shift and will be continuing this November with the release of Human Resources. See how I’ve kept the punchy two-word theme throughout? Clever, eh?
I personally think NG is the best – or has the potential to be the best – of the lot. I’m excited about it. I want it to work. I want it to sing, to shine. And I think it can.
But I think I need to hold my horses a little. There are still enough imperfections that I need to address, and those common complaints aren’t going anywhere. The only urgency is self-created. I can afford to take a little time and make it as good as I possibly can.
Specifically, the major complaint is that I haven’t put enough description in, and have left certain things too ambiguous. To some extent that’s a stylistic choice and I don’t want to go overboard to compensate. But clearly there is room for a few more words of explanation.
I also have to address a few plausibility gaps; not that things didn’t work, necessarily, but if they can be tightened it’ll be a better, more absorbing story.
The big thing I have to grapple with at the moment, however, is a question of showing or telling.
The old mantra is ‘show, don’t tell’. This is often debated and isn’t always the best advice. But I originally wrote a fairly long scene near the opening of the novel that described a piece of action – specifically, a rescue attempt from a fire in a medical centre.
Then I cut it. I replaced it with a few paragraphs describing what happened instead of showing it live, as it were.
I had good reasons for this. The scene was over-long and, I felt, unbalanced the novel, especially as it occurred so early in the narrative. I just felt uncomfortable with it as it was, and – I think – I managed to sum it up concisely in dialogue as a past event.
You can guess what I’m going to say next. Some members of the critique group asked me why I hadn’t shown the event in question and told me to show, not tell.
Now I don’t know what to do. I still have the scene saved and can reinstate it without too much difficulty (it would be edited, of course). But then would I have the pacing problems again? Is it better as is?
I just don’t know what to do.
What I really need, of course, is an agent. Without one I am on my own.
Except for you lot, of course. What would you do?