Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another Small Step in the Right Direction

Here's the news for the week: the editor at the publishing house, F, likes my book. She will be submitting it to the editorial board (the people who really make the decision) sometime in the next few days, and hopefully they will decide to buy it. She had a list of suggestions for changes and questions she wanted me to answer about the book and the series as a whole, but overall she liked the voice, the story, and the writing in general.

So for the past few days I've been working hard, steady, and with great energy. And K has been working tirelessly as the intermediary between me and the editor, passing F's notes along to me and my revisions back to F. K says that even if this publisher decides not to buy the book, she thinks that she'll be able to find a place for it somewhere. So, no matter what happens, right now I am brimming with hope and possibility.

It's a very exciting time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The New Scoop

Okay, so I realize that I haven't posted in a while. But I have a good reason. I was busy. Really, really ridiculously busy, working on my novel. But for today, I can make time. Because today was a monumental day in the life of this humble writer.

Today my agent submitted my book to a publishing house. Which one, I probably shouldn't divulge just now, but suffice it to say, it's one of the Big Ones.

How this came about is a bit of a complicated story.

When last we left our heroine, she had just heard from her agent and was feeling a tad discouraged by all the work she had ahead of her, all those chapters to revise and pages to comb over. She knew—okay, it’s weird talking about myself in third person—I knew, when I sent the novel to my agent, that I still had some major revisions ahead of me. I was just hoping to do those revisions with a publisher. Silly, idealistic me.

So when K gave me a page-long list of revisions she wanted me to work on before she submitted the novel to a publishing house, I was disappointed, and thought maybe I’d given the draft to K too soon. I looked over the novel again and it looked lumpy and malformed. How could I ever have thought it wonderful? I stuck out my lip for about two days, then stretched my fingers and started again at Chapter 1.

I worked on Chapter 1 for about a week, and by the end of the week, I was excited again. I could feel the story shaping up. Even in that short time, I felt I knew my characters so much better than before. It was great progress. But it took a whole week. And I had 19 chapters to go.

This brings me to Wednesday morning, September 9th. When there was a very big email from K.

Here’s what it said in a nutshell: K has a friend who is a YA editor at the big- publishing-house-which-will-remain-nameless. K was chatting with this friend when she just happened to mention my novel. Her friend confessed that the publishing house was “desperately” searching for a YA novel on the exact subject of my book. K elaborated on my story, which seemed wholly different than the other manuscripts that were currently under consideration at the publishing house. Her friend said she was dying to read it! K said that I was currently revising the manuscript, and it could be a while before it was ready, but would the editor consider taking a look at the first few chapters and a thorough outline? Her friend said yes, she would.

What do you think? asked K in the email.

What do I think? I think I’d better get my butt to work on the next few chapters and a thorough outline! And so I set off, fingers blazing.

K didn’t impose any real timeline on me, but she also emphasized that the publishing house was currently looking at other novels on my subject, so it would be a good idea to get my manuscript in there FAST. To say that it was a stressful week is a laughable understatement. I won’t get into the details, because they aren’t pretty. It involves major overhauls of Chapter 1, a sudden death in the family which took me to Oregon for five days, and me chewing my fingernails to the quick out of sheer nerves.

But I finished. I polished up Chapters 1-3 and sent them to K on Saturday around midnight. Then I fell into a fitful, exhausted sleep. I talked to K yesterday, and she liked what I’d done, and she emailed me this morning to report that she’d submitted the manuscript to her friend. She said it would be a week or two before they made a decision about whether to buy my book.

Crazy. Oh brave new world, this land of the publishing house.

So you can see now why I didn’t have time to write on the blog.

I’m a little hesitant to write now, truth be told, in that way that women wait until after the first trimester to tell people they’re expecting. I’m expecting, although I don’t know exactly what it is I’m gestating. The idea that the publishing house could actually BUY MY BOOK sends a blast of excitement straight to the pit of my stomach.

But there is also the very real possibility that they will choose another manuscript. If that happens, K assures me that she’ll just take my book someplace else. Which is wonderful. Did I mention that agents are better than peanut butter? When I wrote that, I had no idea just how awesome my agent was. She’s given me such amazing, shrewd suggestions without once coming off in a negative or pushy way, read hundreds of pages multiple times, sometimes overnight, suffered my incessant phone calls and panicky questions with grace and humor, and simply encouraged and reassured me at every turn. I heart K!

And who knows, by this time next week she may have sold my book. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Big News

I'll have to make this brief, since I want to be working on my novel during my son's precious nap time.

I have officially heard from my agent. I broke down and sent her a very casual, "hi, just checking to make sure you got my manuscript, I'm available to discuss it whenever you're ready, thanks for reading," email on Friday and on Monday afternoon I came home from lunch to a long, detailed reply. K said she'd read my novel over the weekend and had enjoyed it. Woot! Then she talked about similar books on the market and encouraged me to read them and become more savvy on what the YA readers expect and like. She followed that up with several very specific and spot-on suggestions for revision. "This draft just needs a little of work to get the details just right. YA readers are tougher judges than you’d think!" she wrote.

And then: "I’d love to represent this for you if you’re up for making revisions. Congratulations on completing what I imagine is a very early draft of a much tighter, stronger novel."

These last few weeks as I have been waiting for her reply I've imagined three possibile responses: 1) "this book is not my thing, I just wasn't grabbed by it, best of luck" (which is fairly normal agent speak) 2) "the book is good but needs some work before I'll try to sell it" and 3) "the book is fantastic, it blew my socks off, I've sent it to all the biggest publishing houses and they've already sent you this ginormous check." I had ruled out number 1, simply because I have some degree of faith in the story I'm telling and I know K likes my writing, plus she had already seen/liked the synopsis for my novel and asked to read it. I understood that number 2 was fairly likely. But I was really, unreasonably hopeful for number 3, the way you buy a lottery ticket and sit waiting for the numbers to be announced on TV.

And darn it, you never have those right numbers.

So when I read K's email I was hit with a surge of pure adrenaline and a crazy mix of elation and disappointment. It took me hours to smooth myself out. In the end, when I floated back down to rational thought, I was left with this: this was a very good response. K ultimately wants to sell my book as much as I do (or at least half as much as I do, which is plenty), and she needs to make sure it's solid enough to make a real, honest-to-goodness attempt at it. Her job is not to pat me on the back and tell me how great my book is. Her job is to sell it.

So I am back to the draft, every single day between the hours of 2 and 5. Revision Round 3, which yes, does make this a fairly early draft. I have to remind myself that I started writing this novel in March. Just six months ago. And I may still have a long journey ahead of me before I move to the next stage. I need to be patient.

J recently pointed out to me that my last blog post was a tad melodramatic, me going on and on about waiting for K when she'd only had the manuscript for 3 weeks, which is a very short waiting period in agent-time. Plus, our kid didn't really smell funny and there was no leaning tower of dishes in our sink, thank you very much. So here, all joking aside: I need to be patient. And hammer away on my book. And then be patient some more.

In the meantime, par K's suggestion, I got my college roommate and bestest bud Amy, who is a high school math teacher, to round me up a group of students to read the manuscript. I am eager to see how that turns out, as most of the people who've read the book at this point are people my own age or older.