The Choice

Photo credit: Kyle Pearce

Cut a hundred pages — the woman’s crazy!

The novel was only two-hundred-and-fifty pages to begin with. If I cut a hundred pages, I’d lose forty percent of the story.

I mean, I got what the agent was going for: a leaner, meaner novel that would appeal to middle school-grade readers.

But come on! A hundred pages?

If your doctor told you to lose a hundred pounds, sure, you’d be leaner and meaner, but not in a way that would endear you to other human beings.

The agent’s name was Jennie. I met her at a writers’ conference. She’d read the first ten pages of my first novel, Walking Distance, and on the basis of those pages, she offered to read the entire manuscript.

It took her five months, and her feedback was explicit: my novel was too long, it was mired in minutia in places, and its ending wasn’t completely clear.

Oh, and the dad character had to play a much smaller part.

After reading Jennie’s feedback, I immediately went through the five stages of literary rejection: anger, anger, anger, anger and anger.

I raged around the house for a couple of days. muttering to myself. Then, slowly, I cooled down.

I reread her email again, only this time I focused on the positives. She liked my writing style, my sense of humor, and she said she saw promise.

She didn’t offer to represent me, but she did offer me a choice: I could rewrite my novel and resubmit to her, or I could put it aside and write another novel.

Charles “Chub” Fuller came to mind. He’s the main character of William Goldman’s novel The Color of Light, and like me, he’s a writer who’s trying to make something of himself. Chub writes a story and, seeking feedback, gives it to his friend, Stanley ‘Two-Brew’ Kitchel.

Two-Brew, an aspiring editor, thinks the story shows promise. His feedback is comprised of four words: “On to the next.”

I read The Color of Light in 1984, when I was 22 and just awakening to the dream of becoming a published author. I remember thinking Two-Brew’s feedback was harsh.

Chub poured his heart and soul in his story! How could Two-Brew be so cavalier?!

And how could Jennie? How could she even suggest me putting aside something that represented two years of my life?

I raged a little more. Then I made my choice.

To be continued . . .





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