Nearly a year ago, I began submitting my novel, Honey Ko, to agents. In all, I queried about 65 agents, 24 of whom were kind enough to respond with a gentle “decline.” One agent’s response was so kind I imagined her typing my rejection while crying and feeling dreadful, just dreadful that she couldn’t represent me. I nearly responded with a “There, there. It’s okay. It’s all my fault.” Most of the agents said Honey Ko wasn’t what they were looking for, or wasn’t what they had hoped it would be. None offered specifics or advice.
With those rejections in mind, as well as the final comment of my editor: “This manuscript does not work. Your main character is not likeable,” I decided to revise the novel. I changed the name to A Wished-For Love, revised the opening, made my main character likeable, and revised the ending.
As I revised, I came to realize that I had unconsciously written another story – a phantom story! – between the lines of Honey Ko. That was a major revelation, to say the least. I had already outlined a second book based on a subplot of Honey Ko. The basis of that outline – my Susanna essays – is what the phantom story turned out to be. So, with my book revision in mind, I decided to incorporate parts of my Susanna essays into A Wished-For Love. This move effectively changed the plot, and that was okay: The original plot was thin while the revised plot gave the novel a fuller, more complete feel.
As I continued to revise another realization popped into my mind: my writing had changed. Yes, indeed. My writing vastly matured in the three years since I began writing the novel. I had joined a writing group on Facebook, Writers World (the only writing group on Facebook I would recommend), started this blog, wrote countless essays, became enamored of writing poetry, tried my hand at lyrics (the hardest work of all), was one of four writers invited to submit essays to an anthology (Four Feet Down), and generally learned and applied every rule of writing I could find.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to write, but Writers World taught me to refine my writing. I don’t want to appear arrogant or conceited, but I knew naturally how to develop characters and locations, pace my writing, give it cadence – that’s what being a voracious reader does for you. I thank God for parents that encouraged my reading. Yes, they did tell me to turn off the flashlight, put away the book, and go to sleep, but I know they said it with a smile and were proud of my reading habit.
As I wrote I gave A Wished-For Love an edge and added depth, I also added more dialogue and narration. The novel transformed from a novice writer’s (novice of any type of writing) first effort, to the work of a more seasoned writer. The change was noticeable immediately: instead of merely telling a story, I was writing a novel.
I have three chapters to revise yet, and then another read-through to check for continuity. Then I’ll be ready to query again. This time, I have a much better feeling for both the quality of my “pitch,” the quality of my writing, and the quality of my novel.
Fingers crossed. I’m submitting to the dreadful, crying agent first.
Images via Google