Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I'm Back!

To my faithful readers:

No, I have not been abducted by aliens. I have not succumbed to beriberi or bubonic plague or even a common cold. I have not fled civilization for life on a deserted isle. I have not entered a cloistered convent, become an undercover spy, or fallen into a coma.

I revised my novel.

That feat occasioned -- necessitated -- my absence here. I realized that if I ever hoped to finish that monster, I needed to ignore everything else and attack it with all my heart, all my mind, and all my attention.

It was a bloody battle, but last week I planted my pennant in the beast's breast. I won.

At least I think (I hope ) I have.

Vittore Carpaccio (1502)

I thought I'd finished before. In December, after four years of work and numerous revisions, I sent what I considered the final version of the manuscript to my agent. I was ready to go out on submission the very next day.

Unfortunately, said agent was not as impressed with my opus as I was. She and her assistant had several suggestions: some tightening here, some developing there, better management of the suspense throughout...

After two weeks of despair -- I mean, if it would have been better some other way, I would have done it that way from the beginning, right? -- I set aside my disappointment and got back to work. Maybe they had a point. Maybe their suggestions would make a good manuscript even better. Maybe I'd been so happy to "finish" that I'd overlooked some inherent weaknesses I knew were there but suspected might be too difficult to fix.

I set to work.

Once I started changing things, I realized they WERE right. It was a big job (I still suspect I might have changed more than even they intended), but once I started fiddling, the cascade effect set in. Change this, you have to change that. Enlarge this character's role, you have to adjust the role of this other one. To increase the tension here, you need to tighten the strings way back there.

I can't tell you how many times I was ready to give up. I wrote myself down blind alleys, only realizing they were blind after writing dozens of painstakingly crafted pages. I rearranged events in new combinations, thinking I'd solved one problem, only to find I'd created a different one somewhere else. I focused so much on creating suspense that the novel started to stray from its original identity and turn into a murder who-done-it, something I'd never intended it to be.

I wallowed in the mess, seemingly stymied at every turn. I thought I would never, ever finish. I started to wonder what I'd done that merited such excruciating expiation.

But somehow it happened. I panted on, pushing myself to the end, my brain hurting worse than my lungs, and I finished. I'D WRITTEN AND REVISED A SECOND NOVEL, one I could be proud of. I hit "send" at 2 am Pacific time, thrilled that the finished product would pop up on my agent's screen as soon as she logged in that morning.

Will this publishing story have a happy ending? That remains to be seen. For now I'm biting my nails, waiting to hear back, wondering whether the manuscript is finally be ready to go out on submission. If not, more tweaking awaits. If it is, then I face the torment of submission.

But at least now I'm satisfied that the story can't be told any other way. I've given it my best effort all around. I am so glad my agent encouraged me to keep working on it, because not only did the manuscript turn out better in the end, but I learned so much in the process, things that will help me write an even better novel next time.

I'll share some of these things soon.

But in the meantime, I want to thank you for not abandoning my poor neglected blog. I have exciting things planned for the coming weeks, now that I'll have the time to post again regularly.

And I hope that in the not-too-distant-future I will have good news to share.

A happy ending.


Katharine Ott said...

Your book wrestling discussion was so interesting! Thanks for a glimpse into a difficult but rewarding time for you.

Julianne Douglas said...

Thanks for taking the time to read it, Katherine! I'm still working on a post about what the effort taught me.

Vicki Kondelik said...

This was a fascinating post. Sorry you had such a difficult time, but I'm glad if it helped you to make your book even better. I'm looking forward to your post about what you learned in the process.

Julianne Douglas said...

Thanks, Vicki! I'm afraid I was a bit wound up/excited/overwrought when I finished. It was a long process...let's hope the end is in sight!