Received a non-vague rejection from an agent yesterday. The upshot: my writing sample (in this case, the first five pages of Model Species) did not maintain the interest that, presumably, the query letter elicited. Which put Eric in "What can be improved?" mode. The advantage of Eric’s "What can be improved?" attitude is that, well, things are improved. The disadvantage is that it’s hard on the ego. The implicit statement that precedes "What can be improved?" is "Something is screwed up." Inevitably, I interpret that as "I have screwed this up…again. I suck." Maybe an understandable attitude, but not a helpful one. What followed was an evening of discussion/argument that, as usual, resolved into "Yeah, that’s something to be fixed." In this case, two things to be fixed.
First, when we rearranged Model Species, I didn’t really look at the new first scene as a first scene. This is a boneheaded mistake on my part. As a second scene it was a lull in action after an intense scene. As a first scene…well, it was a lull when it needed to be zippy. So, rewrite time for that.
The second issue: Eric and I were talking a boredom the other day. For instance, what makes a movie boring? I glibly tossed out that maybe it too is a matter of edge detection. Eric’s theory is that neurologically we rely on edge detection to gather information similarly to how it occurs in image processing. (He will undoubtedly correct me if I’m getting this wrong.) Further, it’s edges–changes and contrast–that make things exciting. Changes draw the eye, fire the neurons, stimulate the brain. To further the further, it may be the changes in any medium are the interesting part. Changes in tempo or contrasting sounds make music more listenable. An action movie that is continuous break-neck action is fairly boring. Same for a drama that is nothing but talk without tension.
The same for literature? Why not? When Eric and I talked about it the first time, I thought about it in a scene-to-scene manner. Scenes should vary in pace. Eric considered it in a more intra-scene level. If all things in a scene are given the same weight (measured in the amount of detail), does it make the scene boring? Maybe. I have a tendency to maybe homogenize details. Important things in a scene don’t stand out because I give less important things a similar amount of detail. This is a by-product of how I work. I immerse myself in characters and the world. I’m not sure if I can change that or if I want to, but maybe my writing needs an editing pass where I accentuate the important plot points and remove some of the minutia. We’ll see how that goes.
Should have learned this ten years ago? Should have taken a tougher look at Model Species? Hindsight is 20/20. Can’t do anything about the past aside from learning from it.