THE EVOLUTION OF A DEBUT NOVEL
Nearly three years ago, after having completed my first YA-novel, Honeysuckle Holiday, I began the arduous task of querying literary agents who represented that genre. And while indeed arduous, it was also rather exhilarating. Researching agents who represented YA-fiction, composing the perfect query email, and tapping the send button fueled a continual repeat of that cycle which, in time, gifted the certain excitement of a reply. Until the query is sent, there can be no response. Incidentally, I unequivocally believed that the manuscript was in its finest form. It had benefited from readings and critiques by well-read book aficionados and, most importantly, by my fourteen-year-old niece and two of her friends. After all, they were the intended audience. What I didn’t realize was that while each of these readers raised certain red flags – and each was certainly measured and either discarded or incorporated into the manuscript – the manuscript was not in its finest form. But I chose to believe that it was ready.
My query emails were, many times, responded to rather quickly. And, in many instances, the green light was given to send the completed manuscript. Naturally, and both incredulously and foolishly, I mistakenly believed that representation was certainly just around the corner. And perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that representation was never offered. More than one agent, while encouraging and completely intrigued by the novel’s storyline, emphasized that it was not in its finest form – that much work needed to be done before they could commit to representation. This measure of transparency was, I later realized, an incredible gift.
After two years of fine-tuning the manuscript and continuing to write queries and repeat the initial cycle of piquing their interests with a spot-on request and ending with similar results, I began the even more arduous task of revision and revision and revision. And, too, I began to consider publication with a hybrid publisher. In other words, I opened my eyes fully to other opportunities, while at the same time jumping the ship of denial.
Two years and hundreds of submissions later – as well as an immeasurable dose of reality – I sent a query to a relatively-new hybrid publisher, who not only provided invaluable feedback and answered every one of my seemingly endless number of questions and also providing a list of clients for me to talk with about this publishing option, I made the choice to sign with them. Since the publication of Honeysuckle Holiday, the decision has proved with complete certainty that it was, indeed, the right one. And yet, even after going through more rounds of revisions with my publisher and with my critical readers, it wasn’t until the night before I was to sign off on the final revisions that I decided to read the manuscript one last time. Twelve hours later, without having slept that night, I held the “completed” manuscript, a paper clip adorning the top left corner of every single page. It was at that moment that I felt that I could abandon the novel without hesitation. And then, at just that moment, as if a bolt of lightning had hit me, I recalled a line that I had read many years ago from an endless line of articles about publishing: “Your novel isn’t ready until you have grown weary and are ready to toss it.” And, even in my deep stupor, I realized at that moment that my manuscript just might be ready, especially after spending the next eight hours addressing every single one of those paper-clipped minor, but oh so very vital, corrections. And then, I recalled more than one agent’s directive to return and return and return to the story, until it was as ready as it could be, my deep gratitude reaching an even greater depth than I ever knew possible.