Dear Karelia, It’s been such a pleasure going through Forgive Me and seeing the story evolve as you update and refine it. Thank you for your creative responses to our suggestions! I’d like to continue our excellent progress and begin working with Track Changes on a master document, so for this round of edits you’ll see some developmental suggestions in this cover letter and a number of smaller suggestions inserted as comments into the manuscript itself. We also took this opportunity to perform some light copyediting as we came across easy-to-fix issues with grammar, punctuation, or syntax. These changes are just preliminary; we’ll be performing a heavier copyedit later on. All comments and changes within the manuscript will have “Accept” and “Reject” options, so as you come across them, please accept the changes you agree with. It would be great if you could use Track Changes for your own edits, as well, so that we can find the changes you make more easily. Please also feel free to leave comments in the manuscript for us! Without further ado, here are the broader suggestions we had for this version of the manuscript. Some of these may be briefly mentioned in the manuscript (as comments) so that their placement is easy to find. These are all changes we discussed during our meeting at Case Study, so there shouldn’t be any surprises! •
Pru-Ann is a great reason for Triinu and Isabel to drift apart, and we absolutely think she should still serve that purpose. We also love the way the smoking section scenes have developed, and we absolutely want to keep the scenario with Ralph (culminating with the incredible scene in his bedroom, which is not only beautifully written but also gives Triinu a sexual opportunity with a boy to reject in favor of something different). However, the rest of the interactions between Triinu, Pru-Ann, and Pru-Ann’s cadre of boys overwhelm the plot a bit and distract from the forward momentum. We think most of that can be cut from the story in order to tighten the focus and keep the reader interested in what’s critical to the story. It would also be nice to get Pru-Ann out of the story earlier and more conclusively—for instance, sending her off to wilderness rehab for bringing weed to school or something like that—so the reader doesn’t have to worry later about what happened to her.
We’re getting much closer to the right number of scenes with Isabel, but we could still do with a couple more. Specifically, we’d like some more scenes rounding out her character: the reader should care about her as her own person, not just Triinu’s best friend. This could mean adding some more scenes at Isabel’s house, establishing more of Isabel’s social/school life outside of Triinu, etc. It might even be nice to move Isabel into Stream Biology—this would give opportunities for Triinu and Isabel to interact with each other and other students without forcing you to add a whole bunch of brand-new scenes.
I loved your explanation of why Roger didn’t want Triinu to show her mother the suit (because she would be too worried about Triinu’s safety). This definitely needs to go in the manuscript, both for the reader’s comprehension and consistent characterization of both parents. We’d also like an expanded coming-out scene with them: some more dialogue between Triinu and her parents would make the scene feel more powerful, and then some personal reflection from Triinu afterward would help the monumental event really sink in for the reader. Finally, her parents’ reactions when they arrive at the lab on prom night should be amped up—even as collected and intellectual as they are, they are still protective, and they would be upset that Triinu is locked in a room with her clothes ripped, potentially assaulted. They should demand the whole story and be satisfied that Triinu is safe before they start schooling Pinn.
Pip should be developed even more as an antagonist. As we discussed, the OCA/Measure 9/government-sanctioned homophobia is the overarching “villain” or oppressive force in this story and needs to be seen as such, but Pip gives us the opportunity to put a human face on it, one that Triinu interacts with as a peer. Perhaps he could be the leader of a student chapter of the OCA; he could speak at a meeting/debate that Triinu attends and really show his background, his homophobia, and his alignment with the authorities. We would like to see his character arc develop in the story thusly, as per our discussion at Case Study: he’ll start out jerky and a little whiny, but once he receives some power (as the student leader of the OCA) he’ll start to lead other students, antagonize Triinu in a targeted manner at school and at meetings, and generally act more menacing. Then, once they end up in Biology together, he’ll start to notice his attraction to Triinu, which is confusing and frustrating. This is where the weird, aggressive teasing/flirting comes in. Triinu, realizing her own power and agency, will use her sexuality and her body as a weapon to antagonize Pip right back. However, Pip takes it too far by touching her, and Triinu completely shuts him down (in whatever manner you see fit). Pip becomes furious because he’s been made to feel emasculated and stupid, which is when his vendetta gets really personal and scary. This is where the death note on the locker and the verbal threatening happens. Then, when the reader finds out that he’s in a coma/dead, there’s no conflict because the last experience they had with him was terrifying and violent.
Every time there’s a mention of a debate or town hall meeting, we want a scene of Triinu attending it! This will provide background for the pre-Measure 9 momentum and then make Measure 9 itself a real and present threat for the reader, as well as establish a dominant opposing force for Triinu. Ursula mentions on page 102 that she went to a debate about an early proposal for Measure 9—can we have a section where Ursula drags Triinu to the debate, which ends up energizing Triinu to become more involved in these meetings? This would allow the reader to actually watch the action as it's happening. Mentioning the measure itself too much before then might be tricky,
because it wouldn’t be likely that it would actually be circulating in the community as a formed initiative that many years before the vote, but watching this particular debate unfold would be very helpful in establishing the conflict. Before that, to heighten the tension and build conflict, maybe there could be a couple more instances of blatant homophobia in the city/government/state to lay the foundation for Measure 9. I feel so confident that you’ll be able to come up with brilliant solutions to these suggestions, and I can’t wait to see the next draft. Of course, feel free to email me any time if you have questions or want to brainstorm or discuss anything related or unrelated to these edits. I hope you have a relaxing break and a wonderful holiday season! All my best, Sarah Currin-Moles