Yesterday I sent the final draft of a new novel to my agent. It's a young adult novel with a pirate theme. Because we live in the Caribbean, I made sure it had plenty of Caribbean flavor. And some of it takes place on St. Croix. Because what the hell? We're a Caribbean island. Why shouldn't some of it take place here?
Anyway, I spent all of Tuesday feeling "ebullient." That quickly faded. I now wait in nervous anticipation for him to sell it. I am not naïve, I know this will take months - if I’m lucky. But you always think, “He’ll open the file, just to see what he’s got, and be so taken with the opening scene that he’ll sit down and read the whole thing, right then and there. And he’ll see the potential and be so fired up that by the next day he’ll have it in the hands of some high-powered editor at some big publishing house who will immediately offer me a huge, life-changing advance. This will all take about 24 hours, maybe 48.”
It’s not true, of course. But you always let yourself think that. Just for a day or two.
This is not my first attempt. My first novel went to a dozen houses. One of them held it for nine months, it made it all the way through the approval process until the very last meeting, the one where they decide these are the books we’re publishing next season. And for some reason I was never told, they passed on it. Last summer, after two years, my agent informed me that the book was “dead in the water, for now.” Not that it was bad, not that anyone had anything negative to say about it. Just that no one was willing to publish it.
I licked my wounds for two days. As it happened, when we had that conversation I happened to be reviewing a book for The Poopdeck. It was a good book, but nothing special. I said to myself, “You can do better than that. Hell, you DID do better than that. And you can do it again.” So I sat down and wrote the new one.
I took the feedback I’d gotten and started the new story. And yesterday I sent it off.
I had one rule and one secret weapon. The rule was articulated by Tori, who had just read the Percy Jackson series. She’s a fifth grade teacher and has to keep up with what the kids are into. The rule is: Your character has to fight a dragon in every chapter. Doesn’t have to win, but there has to be a dragon in every chapter.
Well, there are no dragons, of course, this is a pirate novel. But there’s plenty of “stuff.”
The secret weapon I will discuss tomorrow. It requires a little more space and time than I have right now.
One thing I have learned through the years is that no book would ever be published if it weren't for "lunch." The two books I co-wrote with Cap'n Slappy were both sold after lunch meetings between my agent and an editor. Everytime there was a glimmer of hope for the first novel it was after a lunch he'd had with someone. If agents and editors ever decided en masse to go on diets and cut out that middle of the day meal, the country's literary output would fall to nothing.
Just checked my e-mail again. Still nothing from my agent. That’s the other thing, when you don’t hear anything back right away, your mind starts telling you “That’s it. He hates it. In fact, he hates me personally, wonders why he ever signed me, and will probably quit the book business just to get away from me.” If – God forbid! – he were to die, I would blame myself, assuming reading my manuscript had sapped his will to live.
As I think I mentioned in the post about “Bird by Bird,” writers are crazy. I certainly am.