Oh no! Not another rewrite!

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?

*Thanks to for the use of "protagging" as a verb


  1. absolutely ditto!

    also I might consider changing this: A reluctant werewolf has to defy her pack to stop a killer that might be herself in wolf form.

    A reluctant werewolf has to defy her pack to stop a killer that might be herself.

      1. Sure is. Keep them blurbs as short and laconic as they need to be.

  2. There is nothing there that says “This is different from any other werewolf novel you’ve ever read!”

    I realize that may be the intent (to write a standard werewolf novel), but if you want to get an agent or editor’s attention you might want to have something there that makes it stand out from the pack. (Pun intended.)

    1. Author

      You know, Jack, it’s funny — when I was staring at that elevator pitch, I had the same thought, that surely there must already be a novel out there with essentially the same log line.

      But I couldn’t think of one.

      And I couldn’t Google one.

      So maybe it sounds like the standard werewolf novel but I don’t know that it is, in fact, the standard werewolf novel.

      Anyway, the agent-finding process seems to use the query rather than the elevator pitch, so I’m not sure how much that part of it matters.

      For what it’s worth — I have found that, when elevator-pitching it to random people who happen to be told that I finished a novel, which means they inevitably ask me what it’s about, the mere fact that she’s female seems to strike them as unique and interesting.

  3. I like the name change. Much as I enjoyed the name “Kaari,” I think “Abby” is much more believable given her background. The longer form is hilarious and also horribly believable.

    You hit upon the name of the oldest child in the family I’m related to… that one with all the religious crackpotty drama. Though, much I would hope that she will break free of her background (and become a werewolf), I doubt it’ll happen.

    1. Author

      Wow, I didn’t know that. Maybe she’ll read this book because it has a character with the same name and be inspired…

  4. Being able to weave the plots together to make it tighter sounds like a good change.

    One thing I would think about in the pitch: she wants something now, but it’s not made clear how being a werewolf threatens her want. The end of your pitch is about defying the pack leader–which implies a central conflict with wanting to be part of the pack vs. finding the killer, and not any real conflict with being a game developer. I mean, while it could be inconvenient to be a werewolf and work in a game company, it could be entirely feasible–so I’m not seeing where being a werewolf, or even being suspected of murder as a wolf, puts her want at definite risk.

    What I thought she wanted, even in the earlier version, was a new family and human connections to fill the gap left by her husband, which is something that definitely conflicts with being an inhuman killer. In the last version she was seeking that in Alice’s house, but now it seems like she’s looking for that at work?

    Anyway, as usual, my rambling went on much longer than intended. Keep truckin’ on the revision. Sounds like you’re going in a good direction. I like the name change.

    1. Author

      >she wants something now, but it’s not made clear how being a werewolf threatens her want
      >What I thought she wanted, even in the earlier version, was a new family and human connections to fill the gap left by her husband

      I don’t know how to best get this across in the concise, pithy way that you need to for a query — that’s always the problem, isn’t it? — but that’s still definitely a factor. Here’s my thinking if it helps you make any helpful suggestions (and you were super helpful last time.)

      She is trying to start a new life which means a new family, new friends, a new career, and all of it in a new town. The new career is the part that was missing before, and the new career is also tied to the search for new friends — one of the first things she does with her new co-workers is go out socializing with them. So it’s not a change so much as an addition. She wants the whole new life package.

      Her being a werewolf first starts to threaten that first when she’s at the job — she finds herself unable to concentrate and unable to do stuff she knows she knows how to do. In the course of this story, you don’t find out the “author reason” for that, but it’s twofold: new neural architecture for things like interpreting scent has interfered a bit with what was already there, and werewolves tend to be physically restless and moderately bipolar.

      It’s threatened even more when the assassin comes after her. She doesn’t know the full measure of his intentions and can only assume that he poses a danger to her family, so she starts trying to keep them safe.

      The next threat is when the pack leader shows up — he doesn’t threaten her Seattle family or career directly, but he is quite adamant that, because she tends to change to wolf form when physically injured, she cannot be around outsiders until she learns to control it.

      She even sees the logic of that, but her sense of connection to the killer — she knows that it is either her, or someone close to her she could presumably stop — is too strong. She can’t just walk away from it.

      I experimented with her needing to rescue a close friend or family member, but that plot always felt a little contrived to me. If you think it would punch up the query, though, I might revisit.

  5. I’m with you on the name change and I like the idea of her being a software developer – there’s still this lingering idea in the mainstream that girls don’t do computers. My wife the avid Final Fantasy/Fable/Devil May Cry player would beg to differ.

  6. Some of what you say sounds great, other points I have some concerns about…

    After reading the version you gave me, I would absolutely never have described your character’s goal as “wanting to help her friend stop drinking.” What she wants is to figure out who she really is and what she wants out of life. This got triggered by her husband’s death, but its origin was in her abusive childhood and unhealthy relationship with her husband.

    The plot point of wanting to help her friend stop drinking worked fine because it was psychologically realistic. When you don’t know what you want for yourself, it is easy to throw yourself into trying to fix someone else’s problems. This came across well… repeatedly she would think, “What am I going to do for a living when the money runs out? How do I even know how to decide?” Then she’d push those thoughts away.

    Shifting emphasis so the murder thread gets more prominence sounds great. It plays directly into her fears about who she is, her identity crisis, and raises the moral question of what she is going to do if she’s guilty.

    Changing the plot so that her overt desire is to get a job sounds like a step sideways. The character in the draft I read would not ever want that in the first place – she doesn’t have the competitive spirit, pop culture knowledge, the ambition, the interest in gaming that I would think go with that goal. (As an aside, gaming bores you to tears, so why pick gaming specifically? Unless maybe you are planning to have her realize that it bores her and she doesn’t really want to do it?) So either this is a real goal and you’re significantly changing the character – which almost means writing a whole new novel which just happens to have a similar plot – or this goal is bait-and-switch just like “helping Alice” was, in which case it’s probably not a big improvement.

    Theoretically it could be better, because it could play more directly into an examination of her goals than “helping Alice.” But on the other hand, it involves a HUGE rewrite of a lot of material which is already very good.

    My advice, FWIW, is to do a much smaller rewrite. If the novel had a weak spot, it’s that the many subplots did not get tightly enough bound to her goal of figuring out who she was. The material is there, but connections could be made tighter. I also thought the climax was a bit weak. If the connecting thread is trying to find herself, the climax should be where the reader sees her take charge and act on whatever she truly values. Maybe she did and it just didn’t come through to me as a reader.


    There’s no limit on how many rewrites is “too many.” Many pro writers did repeated revisions of their early work, and some do repeated revisions of every work. But my sense as I read this is that you are headed down the road of making it different, not better. Knowing your issues with submit-o-phobia, I wonder if on some level it isn’t a dodge… a way to work really hard without actually doing the one thing you don’t want to do. I hope you won’t be upset at me for raising the point. I don’t know if it is true, I just know that’s a concern I have after reading this.

    And of course I would be happy to read the new version if you want reader reactions.

  7. Wolf tries to get out of a corset? I am so there.

    Brutalist architecture.

    Does Charles Mudede have a cameo? I would love that.

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