Novel revision deja vu

As mentioned earlier, I am working on revising Enter Title Here. And I am doing it using exactly the same process that I used, almost exactly two years ago, to prepare This Beautiful Fever for submission to agents. I’m enjoying the revision process considerably. Even when I am in no mood to begin it, I usually fall into it within a few minutes and then I’m happily marking it up for hours. Oftentimes I even overrun my allotted time and do more hours of work than I planned for. I like the novel so much that I’m even willing to put in the little touches. For instance, today I spent half an hour going through and finding places where I could insert super obscure dictionary words (one of them was “filipendulous”) for reasons that will probably only be clear to about 10% of the people who read the book. Yesterday, I looked at a scene that was working pretty well and then I tore it apart and rewrote it so it could be even better.

I like the novel a lot. This is not a given with me! I’ve written multiple novels that I did not like a lot. I’ve written novels that I couldn’t bear to revise. Part of my good feelings are probably because this novel hasn’t yet been rejected by any agents, contests, editors, etc. But part of it is just that I enjoy reading it and think it’s pretty good. Since I’m going through it sentence by sentence, I’m paying lots of attention to the actual writing. And sometimes (not often!) I actually come across a sentence that makes me think, “Hmm. That’s pretty good. All the sentences should be like that.”

That’s a pretty new feeling

Although I’m going through the same process as I did with the previous novel, I’m in a very different position. Writing that novel was a very speculative endeavor. Although I was full of hope for its future, I had zero expectation. I knew that publication was unlikely, not just because I was a new and untried author, but also because the book was a bit of a hard sell (agents and editors can talk until they’re blue in the face about how they want LGBT YA, but I don’t think the numbers bear them out).

This time is different. When working on a book that you love, it’s a very odd feeling to know  that it’s a very commercial concept  and that this is the right time (or at least a non-terrible time) to sell this kind of book and that you have an agent who loves the book and is excited to send it around. As much as I don’t want it to, that raises certain kinds of expectations. It’s actually not unlikely that this book will sell.

But that’s a horrible place to be. Because it could very well fail to sell. That is also a not unlikely scenario. And I know lots of aspiring writers read this blog, so let me tell you…the closer you come to the sale, the worse the rejection feels.I know, it doesn’t make intuitive sense. Since rejection is primarily painful for the way it undermines your self-image (as a smart person, good writer, etc), then you’d think a “close, but not quite” rejection would be less painful, since it implies that you have at least some talent. But I think the reason it’s worse is because when you come close, they provide reasons for why they rejected it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the happiness research, it’s that the brain loves vagueness. When the brain is free to believe anything, it inevitably believes the thing that is most flattering to itself. When you get an impersonal blow-off of a rejection, it’s easier to believe, “Oh, they just didn’t understand it. They weren’t the right market for my work.” When they send back a detailed reason that describes the things they liked and didn’t like, then it’s harder (though not impossible) to escape the conclusion that the work just wasn’t good enough.

So yes, in the future this might result in some major hurt. But, for now, I’m really excited by my novel, and I hope that you all can someday read it.

2 thoughts on “Novel revision deja vu

  1. Kara Lee

    Good luck with the novel! I wish you the best with it.

    I’ve never had any sort of personalized rejection, it’s always been a flat yes or no, with no explanation attached. I can definitely see what you mean. *shudder* But I’m glad you’re excited now, and I too hope it’ll be published in the future 🙂

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