So, I thought I had the werewolf novel all figured out, then I stepped away from it for 6 weeks of write-a-thoning. When I went back to take another look and get on the finding-an-agent thing again, I realized OMG! The protagonist doesn't want anything! She is totally protagging insufficiently!*
Before I bugged any more agents, I decided to do a rewrite in which I fix this problem. That rewrite is now mostly complete. So, if you guys aren't too sick of me yet, check out the new query:
Waking Up Naked in Strange Places
A reluctant werewolf has to defy her pack to stop a killer that might be herself in wolf form.
After the death of her husband, Abby Goldstein already has more than enough to deal with: trying to start a new life in Seattle, working to realize her dream of becoming a software game developer, and discovering that her best friend Alice is an alcoholic who needs her help to quit.
But after waking up naked in a Seattle park — next to the eviscerated body of a drug dealer — she has to add one more thing to the list: being a werewolf. Sure, it's handy to be able to track people by scent. But can she still call herself a lifelong vegetarian when, in wolf form, she eats the occasional seagull?
As the city fears rumors of a killer wolf, she finds herself under suspicion of murder and tracked by a dangerous werewolf assassin. Now she has to defy the leader of her newfound pack to find and stop the real killer — even if that killer turns out to be her.
(If you're curious, see The windup and the pitch for the previous version.)
Feel free to comment!
If you are wondering why the name change, that was based on realizing I didn't like saying "Kaari" out loud all that much. Also, it reflected a time when her family history was somewhat different (it's a Finnish name). So I decided to figure out a weird religious childhood name that could abbreviate to a normal-sounding name. The childhood name was Self-Abnegation.
I think the pitfall here wasn't technically that the protagonist doesn't want anything — I already knew better than that. It was that I claimed that she "wanted to help her friend quit drinking" — which is something that she wants, sure, but it's not THE thing that she wants.
I had already tried and failed to make "being a vet" the thing that she wants — partly, it failed because I have never been anything even remotely close to a vet, and had no feel at all for the rhythms of a vet's office. But it also failed for the same reason the earlier "keeping her husband's gaming software company alive failed — I could never seem to make the job plotline connect up to the werewolf adventures plotline.
Then it occurred to me that I hadn't used "trying to get a job in a gaming software company" yet. If the company was new to her, I could easily make characters who had been renting rooms from Alice — characters who included the primary antagonist — into co-workers instead. A new plot arrangement started falling into place. This new plot arrangement felt a lot tighter and more interesting and suspenseful, so for now I'm happy with it.
In retrospect, I think that the reason the other "want" wasn't snappy enough is that it didn't fit the underlying story — somebody who wants to start a new life after the death of her husband finds that desire ironically fulfilled when she becomes a werewolf. So I was trying to get that across with shoehorned dialog of the "gosh, I would sure like to start a new life" variety.
Yeah. That never works.
Anyway, I don't know if, after going through this process a few times, I'll reach a point where I can go straight to the third major rewrite and not muck about so much. But who knows?