As I recall, I handed in the manuscript for The Novelist on October 1st. Then I settled back for a few months to do odds and ends types of things . . . and then our family began to go through some very rough stuff. I’d say it was some of the roughest stuff a family can go through, but I’ve discovered there’s always someone who’s had it rougher.
In any case, we went through Christmas, and in January, I heard from my editor–two of them, in fact. They told me that the manuscript I’d handed in was unpublishable.
I had never heard that in all my years of novel writing. Not once. My editors, in agreement, said I could either shelve it and start from scratch, or do a major reworking. The problems? The first was that Jordan Casey, the male novelist, was too perfect. He had no problems, no conflict, and, as TBS regularly informs us, Drama is Conflict.
“But he’s God,” I moaned to myself. Apparently God does not a good protagonist make.
So, after licking my wounds for a couple of days, I threw out the male Jordan Casey and created a woman much like myself–except that Jordan Casey Kerrigan is older, wiser, much wealthier, and much more successful. (She’s also a better writer. And probably better looking.)
And because I only had one story to tell–the story of what my family had just endured–I slit a vein and let it all pour out. Now–I’ll have you know that the boy in the story, Zack, is not my son and his problems are not ours. But the things that Jordan feels–I’ve felt all of those feelings. (And, for the record, I am NOT a grandmother. Yet.) I happen to have a close friend who’s dealt with a bi-polar son, so I used her experiences to flesh out Zack’s story.
And so I began rewriting. I had to trim the allegory story, change Adam (too obvious) to William, and create an entirely new “outer story” for Jordan and her family. I set her in Reno, NV, so I had to research Reno and its environs. The emotional research, I had a handle on.
And so I rewrote it. And my patient editors guided me through the process, and when it was all finished, I rose up and called them blessed. THE NOVELIST is different from anything I’ve ever done, but it’s honest, it’s bold, I think, and the emotions in it are gut-wrenchingly true.
And my excellent editors were absolutely right.
Tomorrow: the results and reader reaction