I hope you won’t mind if I direct most of this post at myself. Because, frankly, I need a good talking to/kick in the pants/smack upside the head.
Listen, Erin, you have some problems. It seems like everyone compliments your writing (all those agents who declined to take you on had very nice things to say about your technical skill) but there are some serious problems with your manuscript for A Beautiful Fiction that, even if you self-publish, you’re going to want to fix. You know what these are.
Problem 1: Beta readers find it difficult to sympathize with your protagonist.
Your rationale: My narrative voice is detached in an attempt to counter the tendency in a lot of modern fiction to tell too much and therefore not allow the reader to think at all.
Solution: Uh, DUH! Switch from 3rd person to 1st person so you can let people inside your protagonist’s messed up head! (Yes, this will mean rewriting the entire 85,700-word manuscript.)
But that’s not all is it? How about…
Problem 2: Story takes too long to get going.
Your rationale: It just wouldn’t make sense to start later or move things along faster because the storyline would be completely implausible.
Solution: Start at the point the action is intense, then flash back a bit here and there to fill in the details. Seriously, it took you this long to figure this out? For crying out loud, you just wrote a blog post about this very technique for a different story!
(Yes, I admit, it was when I was rereading my own blog post [hanging my head in shame] that I realized this advice could be applied more broadly in my own work.)
There are probably other problems in that manuscript, but two is enough to work on for now. So get your butt in gear, Erin, because you have got a LOT to do now.
In my defense, though, I will say that had I not stepped away from that manuscript for about six months, I would not have come to realize these possible solutions to my problems. Now that I can look at it more objectively, I can get back to work and make A Beautiful Fiction beautiful indeed.