Last November, I got a great idea for a novel about a scientist. The characters and their conflicts came to me easily, which, as any fiction writer will tell you, almost never happens. I could see the arc that the story would take. This discovery was a stroke of good fortune, for two reasons. The first is that I had found a new novel to work on, one that would be a pleasure to write and a joy to watch as it developed. The second is that it kept me from thinking about the completed novel making the rounds of agents, which, as I think any aspiring fiction writer will tell you, is the most nerve-wracking and doubt-inducing part of the process.
I left the blog behind, then, as I plunged into my new writing challenge. I was glad to have the new novel to keep me busy. Most agents didn’t want to see the completed work. One peripatetic agent expressed interest but then made his fourth job change in four years (according to trade reports) and opted to pass. Another agent thought the novel should have more flashbacks and wanted about fifty pages of the protagonist’s life story before the present-day events began. If she hadn’t passed on me, I would have passed on her.
After more than a year of submissions and rejections, I thought: Well, kiddo, your novel has run its course. No one wants it. If I hadn’t had the scientist novel to work on, I might have wallowed in self-pity for longer than I did. I played more rounds of What’s the Point of All This? than I should have, but eventually I concluded that the only option for a real writer was to accept setbacks and keep writing.
So that’s what I did. I worked on my new novel, two to three pages a day, six days a week. Some things got pushed to the periphery, like proper nutrition and this blog, but the novel was taking shape.
I got 245 pages into it when a funny thing happened: An agent e-mailed to say she liked my other novel. Not enough to take it on, but enough to be willing to see a revision. She gave me many great suggestions. This presented me with a pleasant dilemma: Do I finish the scientist novel, or do I go back to a work I hadn’t read in about a year, rethink it, and make the changes? Ten seconds later, I backed up the scientist novel, opened the file that held Draft 5 of the previous work, and saved it as Draft 6. I thought: Let the rethinking commence! And so it has.
The lesson, then, if there is one: In the writing profession, never assume that anything is dead. Novels you thought the world would never see may receive a stay of execution. Agents and editors you had marked in your spreadsheet as Not Interested may show interest after all. And moribund blogs may come back to life, with as much pleasure for readers, one hopes, as for the writer.