One of my plans for this summer was to send out agent queries for the first book I wrote. Note the was, then follow along.
A few years ago, I found myself shut up in a house in rural Minnesota with a toddler, going slowly nuts. So I started noodling around with this writing thing. Maybe I could write a story or two, just to have something to do besides changing diapers. I tried a few ideas that went nowhere, then one of them took off. Way off, and somehow a few months later I found myself staring at eighty thousand words of book.
Well, it was a book, but it wasn’t the book I wanted it to be. Not yet. I had written something, which is the critical first step, but I knew it needed a lot of work. So I revised. Had my wife read it, and revised again. Set it aside and spent some time on short stories, took a writing class, joined my first writing group. Got some more critiques, and revised it again. Then I got cocky and sent it out to a few agents. It got shot down fast.
Still needs work, I decided.
I worked on more short stories. Placed in Writers of the Future, and started selling. I got better and I wrote another book, then another. They didn’t get picked up either, but the agents actually seemed somewhat interested. During that time I also moved and found a new writers group (this one). I eyed the file where my first lay, gathering electron dust, and wondered.
It’s a staple in writing advice. Don’t beat a dead horse. If the book is dead, bury it and move on. Pounding on its chest and screaming “LIVE!” at the sky doesn’t always work. If those words are dead, you’re just wasting your time. So what about this one? This book I still really really liked? I decided to take a chance and sent it to the group.
They tore it up of course. It had issues, big nasty ones, and they pointed them out. But it turns out it also had things that they liked. So with their critiques in hand I tore into it. A few months and a major rewrite later, I had something that was much better. But…
Was it alive, or just a better looking corpse?
Well, I had just started another writing group with two of my friends from the west coast. I sent it to them, and we just finished talking about it.
Well, they tore into it again. There are still things that it needs. But the thing is… they liked it. And they were able to give me some fairly clear direction on how to clean it up. Most importantly, I actually agreed with them.
Which means, IT LIVES! In a feeble sort of way, but that’s enough. Another round of revisions (not nearly so massive as the last) and I think it might start to look almost healthy.
Or am I just wasting my time, beating that corpse?
I don’t think so.
That’s really all I’ve got right now, and I guess that’s enough.