June 10, 2010

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 7:38 pm

Or, not so regularly scheduled.

After all, I haven’t delved into backstory (mine) in some time.

But there’s so much interest in what I call alternative routes to publication–a la Karen McQuestion–that I figured I might as well discuss a few more of the points along my ongoing journey.

So, I’d signed with my first agent, and I still remember her saying, “OK, we have time for one good round before the summer slowdown.”

It was May.

My first–only it was really my second; I’d been querying with two different manuscripts–novel went out to five editors as the end of June loomed.

And I sat back and waited to be told I was going to be published.

Didn’t happen. We got one semi-informative pass, which said that the pace of the novel flagged a little in the middle.

Back then I still believed that if a book was good, it would be bought, and if it wasn’t bought, then it must be at least flawed.

I remember I was part of a writing group then, whose best effect was to introduce me to The Best Editor in the World. TBEITW is still one of my dearest writing buddies, and I would never send a ms out into the world without her reading it and showing me not only where I’ve gone wrong but often, how to fix it.

So I brought the ms to her, and gave her this pace flagging issue, and sure enough she pinpointed what could be responsible.

To be brief, it involved the fact that a dead body was found in the middle of the book, when really it should be a penultimate moment kind of thing.

How hard could it be to move a dead body around in a plot?

A heckuva lot harder than it is to move one in real life. (I think.)

Oh, did I tear that baby apart. And oh, did I suffer over every infinitesimal scene change that rippled throughout every subsequent page, necessitating basically, a total rewrite.

But when it was done! The heavens opened. The angels sang.

HOW could I have let the previous, flawed, ugly, disgusting ms out on submission? How could my agent have wanted to represent that piece of dreck? Of COURSE it didn’t sell. THIS was the novel it wanted to be. The novel it NEEDED to be.

Come September, we went to four more houses with the new, improved (read: rejection-proof) version.

And didn’t get so much as a semi-informative pass out of anyone.

“I’ve had submissions before that went south,” my agent said in a worried tone.

So, what did we do then?

Stay tuned…


  1. I LOVE that you’re finally telling us mroe about your own story. . We need the back story so we can celebrate the front story, of course, which is destined to be one of publishing greatness!

    Comment by Judy — June 10, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

  2. “Back then I still believed that if a book was good, it would be bought, and if it wasn’t bought, then it must be at least flawed.”

    Doooooooooooooooooooon’t tell me that’s not true! Just…DONNNN’T!!!!


    Yeah, moving stuff around inside of a plot is like moving one card out of a house of cards–you pretty much have to do a total tear-down. It’s horrible. Been there, done that, hated it!!!

    I love hearing your backstory. I hope you will tell us more!

    Comment by Savvy — June 11, 2010 @ 8:03 am

  3. Great to get a little more BACK story from you! I am facing that kind of rewrite with my first book and keep putting it off… easier to work at the ones that need less substantial rewrites, or better yet, do first drafts of completely NEW novels *shifty*

    Hang on to your TBEITW–in my writers group we have a team that TOTALS that, but that’s a lot of work!

    Comment by Hart — June 11, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

  4. There is something about that moment when we look at a manuscript with fresh eyes – and a sinking heart.

    What we do next is important.

    Fix it or delete it? I’m a fixer.

    Comment by Kitty — June 23, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  5. In my case, it’s my trusty readers who have that sinking heart (having to break it to me), Kitty, but I take your point. I fancy myself a fixer, too, although oh, does it hurts sometimes. Till the work is done–then it’s the best feeling in the world. Thanks for stopping by!

    Comment by jenny — June 23, 2010 @ 9:12 am

  6. Jenny, I too love these Journey posts of yours. It brings a commonality to our world and promises us we’re not alone.

    I can’t wait to hold your book in my hands!

    Comment by Peg Brantley — June 27, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  7. From your lips to Someone’s ears, Peg…

    Comment by jenny — June 27, 2010 @ 9:11 am

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