With one single novel, Terry McMillan came up with a metaphor that rocketed home and has stayed with me ever since.
We all know the feeling of wanting something so badly that we can’t breathe–not deeply at least–until we have it. For some it’s true love. Or a baby.
For others it’s a book deal.
After I signed with my first agent, I thought it was time to exhale.
The very use of the word “first” tells you that it wasn’t.
I have nothing but good things to say of my agent. She was experienced, wise, supportive, and went the extra mileS, including having me and an editor interested in my work to lunch at her very own apartment because the writing biz is small and people would wonder why this editor was out with me when no deal had yet been announced.
My agent has made many deals for many good authors over the years.
The only problem is, she wasn’t able to make one for me.
This is how it began. You might remember that I had two completed novels at the time that I signed with my agent. She had offered representation based on my second novel. After much (more) revising, that was the one she submitted.
I still remember that it was May, and she said, “We have time for one good submission [before the summer slowdown].”
Ahhh (eeek) was I ever going to learn the monstrosity that is the summer slowdown in publishing…but that’s getting ahead of myself.
(And yes, of course, I understand that all those hard-working and mostly underpaid editors and publishers deserve their time off. It’s just a little teensy bit hard on the writers, that’s all I’m saying, to have to constrict time in this already geologically slow business by two months or so…)
Anyway, we went out on our first round, got several passes, including one that said “the pace flagged a bit in the middle.” In editor-ese (they tend to be kind, perhaps because it’s important to preserve the agent/editor relationship–after all, they’re saying no to something the agent believes in–or perhaps because they’re genuinely nice people and know that passing on a novel is like removing the writer’s heart with a spoon and stomping on it) this means: I was bored silly by the time I got through the first page.
So I revised that manuscript, turning to my various trusty readers, including TBEITW (The Best Editor in the World). When I’d finished, I felt by turns stricken that we had sent something so flawed out into the world–the publishing world, no less–and grateful for all the offers this new, improved version would surely receive.
And in September, when the Hamptons grew chilly and publishing began to crank up again, we went out on a new round.
Stay turned for what happened next.