Just two days ago, my dear hard working wife chimed in with a series of thoughtful comments about my novel. It took her a while, partly due to the length of the manuscript and partly due to the fact that she was reading it on a flash drive, which saves printing costs but also makes ingesting a long novel far more laborious. But, regardless, she gave me some very interesting suggestions. Whereas my first reader seemed to think the novel's first half dramatically held together better than the second half, my wife felt strongly the opposite. (Maybe that's good! Maybe they both hold together!)
I've mentioned it on this blog that Yellow is still a rather hefty manuscript, even though I sliced out a third of its original length some months back. My wife's main suggestion is to look for further cuts in the novel's first half, especially those chapters that feature other points of view from Vincent or his family. Her reason is pretty straight forward: some of the "owners" of these other points of view are not particularly charitable toward Vincent, and she's afraid the chapters might bias the reader against him. Besides, she says, it's his story not theirs. She definitely has a point. So far I've left some of these chapters in as a way to show the attitudes that Vincent had to overcome. The chapters, in my mind, actually reflect more negatively on these other characters than on Vincent himself. Perhaps that is not adequately coming across. And, of course, there is too the fact that Vincent's decision to become a painter, the metamorphosis of his self-awareness, if you will, was certainly a gradual process. Part of what he had to overcome was his own misdirected energies, his passionate desire to follow in his father's ministerial footsteps even though the profession could never have suited him. When you're not in the right "place," the place where you're naturally supposed to be, people pick up on it.
That said, my wife gave me--along with much eloquent and enthusiastic praise (thanks, sweetie)--a lot to think about and process as I go forward into the next stage of revision. And that's exactly what I hoped for and needed when I sought readers for the novel. Now it's up to me to make some hard decisions that I hope will help the book find the form it's finally supposed to take. Letters and emails to agents will just have to wait until this darn book is truly done. But I've known that all along, haven't I?