Make It Queer: Rewriting a Solid Premise
Recently, I changed a WIP.
I'm still querying, so I'd prefer to be vague, but it was essentially a fairy tale retelling where the heroine is now the villain and the villain is the heroine. When writing it, I listened to Lana Del Rey's "Dark Paradise" on repeat. It set a huge tone for the entire manuscript, solemn and foreboding and sad, but also longing and loving. The first draft was written in a mood.
So I fine-tuned the story and queried. I got a surprising amount of interest - and then it fell short because it's written for a very, very crowded market.
What do I do? Trunk or shelve it? When feedback tends to be that it's wonderful but hard to market?
What if... I changed one small thing?
What if I made it queer?
Since writing my first bisexual female MC, I've been much more comfortable writing queer stories. It feels right, it feels like me, it feels like I'm giving voice to a side of me I've always been hesitant to represent because the LGBTQ+ community is still so derided and even unsafe at times. Bisexuality perhaps more so in some ways - it's difficult to say you're bi and be shunned from both straight and queer communities for not being "enough" of... whatever. Or "too much" of, even.
I talked it over with a friend and tackled the project. I changed the love interest's name, their gender, even parts of their identity.
It's made an enormous difference in the manuscript.
The new LI shares a lot of common traits with the old one, but she's also a character of her own. More harsh, but also more open and affectionate once her walls come down. Where the male LI was all about having a family one day, his female counterpart is about finding a place where she can be herself with few consequences - a difficulty when the world looks down on queer people.
Much as I loved the original iteration, this change has improved the manuscript. The microtensions are higher, the stakes are higher, and the final battle takes on a new, more personal meaning - one that isn't hampered by the understandable yet cliched concept of building a family.
I made the changes, shared it with my beta reader, and entered it in Pitch Wars.
It's still in a crowded market, but the queer market is lacking there. Now it should stand out more.
Moreover, it's more me. It's more personal and written more from the heart.
I have high hopes for this iteration.
And I hope to one day share it with you all.