Part 1: Lost Love
My first novel was deeply personal, an Opra-esque tale of two women, sisters, coping with death, loss and guilt in the small town South. It was like a first love; I spent breathless months mooning over words and paragraphs. I adored it and didn’t and adored it again as it grew to a monstrous 480 pages and consumed my world.
But, no matter. This was meant to be, people!
When things got serious -- and I’d revised as much as I thought possible-- I prepared it to meet the ‘rents (well, the agents). And in the course of my research, I discovered that my beloved was much too long. (How does a person miss such an easily-discovered fact? You ask. Well... but, his was love. Practical, schmactical.)
After the requisite despair, I halved the thing, worked that manuscript down to an almost reasonable 120,000 words. And in the process, the relationship moved into a different, more critical stage. I learned a lot about tough love. (No I didn’t need the three chapters detailing the antagonist’s back story. I loved it, still giggle through the robbing the convenience store in Wyoming scene, but—um-- no.)
Then I prepared my query and sent my first novel out into the world, even introduced it to my family. It didn't crash and burn completely. I got quite a few requests for the full manuscript—some really nice detailed letters telling me how I might revise, and an amazing half-hour call from a well known agent who was kind enough to review the manuscript, tell me where and how I might revise, and ask to see it again.
I made the revisions—honing a critical eye and further tightening the once wildly passionate and out of control beast it had been. But in the end, she passed.
Yes, this was the point in the relationship when I went out and had myself a thoroughly self indulgent Frappaccino and a Cadbury Bar, a bag of Kettle Buffalo Bleu Potato Chips, etc.
I had to face facts. It just wasn’t working and mucking with it had not made it better enough. It wasn’t the manuscript, it was the hook-driven world of publishing, the muddle I’d made of the plot, me.
The relationship was over. Painful as it was, I dumped that first novel. But I still have the good times, memories of hanging at Panera with it and my orange scone, as in-love as a human and a manuscript could be.
What does any of this have to do with the gibbon, you ask? Well, I’ll continue the story in the next few days.