I always felt, from the moment the initial idea hit me, that Alex Bullied was a gift. I often feel this way when the lightning bolt of creativity crashes into me, but this time, with Alex Bullied, it was like a Christmas gift I didn’t know I wanted until I held it in my hands.
I was working on another book at the time and for almost a year, as more and more of Alex’s story revealed itself with characters, plot points, scenes, and dialogue, I wrote them down and deposited them in a basket.
Facing another revision of that other, defiantly stubborn novel, I put it aside and pulled out the note basket.
Alex Bullied was conceived as a boy’s book, full of humor, middle grade high jinks and fart jokes. But it’s about a bully, from his point of view.
People get very serious about bullying, as they should. I am certainly not in favor of bullying. I just had a different take on it. I played it for humor, yes, but in my book the bully has the tables turned on him. He experiences what he’s dealt out. He learns. He grows. With high jinks and fart jokes.
Apparently, though, my story is one-dimensional. Critique groups and agents question Alex’s personality and his tendency towards name calling and physical intimidation. They also question Alex’s tormentors, the Mathia’s motives. Are they just nerds turned into bullies?
Revise. Revise. Revise.
I am softening Alex, who wants to turn over a new leaf in this school but, as he’s done so many times, he is judged on his looks. To the Mathia, he looks like the poster boy for bullying. They don’t try to get to know him, instead begin to pick on him. And Alex, mystified and then angry, does the only thing he know to do, fight back.
I’m wondering if I’ve dulled the edges of my story, if I’ve compromised my original idea. I started out writing for middle grade boys, reluctant readers, even. Now I feel I might be writing for agents. The agents point out books like Wonder and Okay for Now, both of which I loved. But I doubt I will ever write those kinds of books. I don’t know that I have the chops. I do, however, want to make Alex Bullied the most amazing book of which I am capable. I hope it’s a fun read for anyone.
So how do I please both middle graders and agents? I’m making changes as best I can and, hopefully, changes that are best for the book, while trying to maintain the original flavor of the story.
Will I be successful? Who the heck knows. I suspect, time will tell.