I understand now why agents and editors want you to be able to sum up an entire novel in a single sentence.
I just finished Book #6 of the BDB series, and by "just" I mean at 6 o'clock this morning, followed by 7 hours of sleep, then up to apply for jobs, pay the rent and write. Book #6 was another good book, another one I couldn't put down, but for different reasons than the first 5.
Book 6 wasn't a single story. If Ms Ward, with all her phenomenal writing prowess, had handed in Book 6 as the first book in the series it would never have been published (IMO). There were lots of things going on, many threads to follow, glimpses of the world outside the Brotherhood home that intrigued the heck out of me - but it wasn't a single story.
Further, the one story it was supposed to be about was the least compelling of the many stories told.
I do not say this to criticize, I'm going to be in line for Book #7 with bated breath. She has hooked me and I'm very happy to stay wiggling on the line. I say this because I now understand what agents and editors mean.
Subplots are great, world-building is essential, getting to know and care about the cast of characters that add depth and complexity to your hero and heroine are all elements of a Damn Good series - but you can't do it at the expense of the primary story you're telling. Or you can, but only if you have a very solid backlist holding you up.
Personally, I have difficulty working in subplots. I'm fine with introducing side characters, though I often have to rein them in as they want to stand front and center in the spotlight and tell their story, but I'm not that great at subplots.
For me, the story is about Person A falling in love and finding acceptance with Person B, and vise versa. The rest of their lives are important, yes, but it's their hearts I'm after. So, the romantic suspense subplot of solving the murder, catching the thief, or discovering the cowardly villain doesn't come naturally. I don't know if it ever will.
The good thing is though, I expect I'll always be able to complete the line, "It's the story of..." in one sentence, maybe two.
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