I was in Washington DC for a couple days for a conference (but, yes, I got to see the cherry blossoms). In between other things, I worked on a post in which I attempted to explain why it took three years to write Kirby — or, to be precise, Kirby and the Queen Bee. Reading it through just now, I decided to chuck the whole thing as it sounded like I was making excuses. I have a better idea: It took as long as it took because it took as long as it took.
The big difference between Kirby and everything else I’d written up until that point was it wasn’t pre-sold: Someone wasn’t waiting at the bottom of a chute looking at their watch and tapping their toe (not that any editor I’ve ever worked for has had to — or would — do that, but you get the image). I had the luxury of taking my time. I also didn’t have to stop at a certain point and say, “Done!” even if the work wasn’t totally and completely done because I knew someone else — someone with strong critical abilities and a red pen — was going to look at what I’d written and tell me what needed fixing. No, with Kirby, I was on my own.
Mostly on my own. I enlisted readers, notably two very good and dear people who somehow remained my friends throughout the process (hi, Helen; hi, Tris) despite some rough (and I mean rough) drafts. The conversations were fun, though, and, if nothing else, I learned a little bit more about how to take criticism and notes, including how to sometimes ignore both.
By the end of 2010, I’d finally arrived at a point where I felt like I had done as much as I could… and still needed some help. I decided to contact my friend (and former editor), Marco Palmieri, who had left Pocket Books and started an editorial consulting company called Otherworld Editorial (http://otherworldeditorial.wordpress.com/), whom I strongly urge you to contact if you need assistance with either line or developmental editorial. Marco was kind enough to take on the project and, a few months later, sat me down and talked me through his feedback.
Overall, the message was positive. As every editor will, Marco found problems, but (as he always does) was able to offer useful suggestions about how to address them. I remember feeling (as my English chum Michael would say) very chuffed. After addressing the issues Marco pointed out, I felt like it was time to show Kirby to a publisher.
Without getting into all the details (because they’re not important at this juncture and involve friends doing me favors), I was fortunate enough to be able to send my book to the YA editor of a Very Suitable Publishing Company. I was, I thought, set. It felt like a lock. It felt Destined To Happen.
Alas, I was wrong. The editor didn’t very much like Kirby. That is not to say, the editor out-and-out rejected the book. In fact, the editor offered some suggestions on how to improve the story and asked me to resubmit. I reworked the manuscript over the next couple months and sent it back in. The editor responded in a timely manner, complimenting the improvement in the manuscript, but said, ultimately, that the story did not click in a fashion compelling enough to accept for publication.
So… I felt like I was dead in the water. That was a bad day. A very, very shitty, crappy, awful day. I sulked. I’m very good at sulking. I come by it honestly.
Fortunately, I have good friends and experienced advisors. I have some people in my corner. “Time,” they all said, “to find an agent.”
What’s this? It’s a smiling fox! Why? Because I felt like I needed at least one break in the tedium. This is a photo of Sophie, Duchess of the Western Vale, one of the characters in KatQB. She’s a Very Sensible Fox.