Hi Mitchell. There is a difference between perseverance and knowing when it’s time to give up, but I suspect you have them mixed backwards. I didn’t read anything in your post that said it’s time to give up.
Let me start by saying I spent 2 years in acquisitions for a small indie publisher and saw a lot of new books. So that’s the place I’m talking from, okay?
The first mistake you made was writing for 2 years before another set of eyes saw the work. The best time to let someone read it is at the end of chapter 1. And chapter 2. etc. Not a professional, no — but someone you trust to be honest with you and give you feedback.
Trivia story for you. Stephen King’s first draft of Carrie sucked because he had no clue how teenage girls talk. He threw it in the trash. His wife pulled it out and said there’s a story here. Poorly written, but a good story.
Next thought — thin plot is subjective. What’s the plot of Lord of the Rings? Hobbit inherits a ring and must destroy it to save the world. What’s the plot of cinderella? Poor motherless girl has the help of a fairy godmother so she can meet the prince and get married and live happily ever after.
According to Kurt Vonnegut, there are only a few plot lines to begin with. You might like this…
Last thing… I don’t think you paid several hundred dollars to have your dreams quashed. I think you paid several hundred dollars to get an objective view of your technical skills at cobbling together a novel.
People are almost always bad at a thing when they’re starting out. Ask any designer how “good” their first website was. They’ll laugh. Ask any artist how good their first paintings were. Same thing.
If no one read it until she did, you sent her a first draft. No matter how much you edited and proofread it, it was still a first draft.
Have you read “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee? It’s awful. That was the first draft that became To Kill A Mockingbird about 4 re-writes later. Her editor kept sending it back and telling her what was wrong with it. It took several rewrites and the finished story was nothing like the first draft.
If you really want to write, then do. Take the story idea you have and start over. Write it like you’re telling the story to a 10 year old. I kid you not. When you’re done chapter one, send it to someone you trust to be honest. Tell them you don’t want to know “how” to fix it, you just want to know if anything feels off. Because people are always wrong about how to fix it, but they’re almost always spot on about what feels off.
One day you’ll thank her for making you look inside the toolbox. The story isn’t in there, but what’s in there helps you tell the story.
Sorry this was so long. lol. Hope it helps. Hope you keep writing! :)