Fouling Out was originally written from the first-person perspective of both Tom and Craig. In the beginning of the manuscript, they often wrote about the same incident while having wildly different takes on what happened. Then, as the plot evolved and their relationship changed, their alternating accounts chronicled entirely different events. Toward the end of the tale, the accounts referred to similar circumstances once again, keeping in tune with the arc of the story.
And then a funny thing happened on the way to publication. Well, not funny at all. Frankly, it was painful. I’d only submitted the manuscript to one publisher and, while there was initial interest, my work did not fit within Orca Book Publisher’s word count limit. (I’d presented it as a young adult novel, thereby allowing a greater word count, but the editor saw it as juvenile fiction.)
I had the option of either cutting my manuscript by 25,000 words (without any certainty that Orca would ultimately accept it for publication) or shopping it around elsewhere. Since I’d received at least something positive as a response—it wasn’t one of those dreaded form rejections, after all—I decided to whittle the text down. The obvious, if not easiest, thing to do was eliminate one character’s point of view. Tom’s version of events was left on the cutting room floor. Much more had to be done, of course, in terms of deleting but also in adding some essential aspects of the plot that had only been in Tom’s account and ultimately, long story shortened, Fouling Out got the green light.
That was my dream. Every aspiring author longs to be published and I am still proud of that accomplishment. I have no regrets about the compromise I made and, while Tom’s account could certainly shed more light on the personalities of both of the main characters and some of the events that occur, I am thrilled with Fouling Out, as published.
Still, every so often, Tom’s character nags at me.
Why’d you cut me? Why not Craig? You like him better, don’t you?
It’s not a bad thing when your characters talk to you. During the writing process, they have to come to life. In fact, the plot and the dialog for Fouling Out often changed from what I’d initially envisioned because, as the characters become more fully realized, they took control over their thoughts and actions.
Whenever that happens, I’ve hit that sweet spot. The writing flows better and, when I go astray, my characters let me know. And believe me, a character like Tom did not hold back in telling me something was lame. (He used other words, but I did modify his language in deference to the younger target audience—and their parents and teachers.)
Next week in this blog I’ll publish Tom’s opening remarks from the original manuscript. For interested readers, I hope it will provide more enlightenment into a character whom some have misunderstood.
Look for it on March 15. Tom will finally have his moment!