Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this on the site before, but I sold Enter Title Here to Disney in a two-book deal, which means that they’ve paid me a partial advance for a second book that has to, I think, be a contemporary YA novel (it’s surprising how much of this stuff you never get told explicitly…) Anyway, since selling the book, I haven’t spoken much to either my publisher or my agent about my idea for a second novel. All I really knew about it was that it wasn’t going to be a sequel to Enter Title Here (not that anyone expected it to be), and that I’d need to eventually write a thing called a ‘proposal’ which would include a ‘synopsis’ and ‘several sample chapters’ so that Disney could see what I was going to send them before I went ahead and wrote it.
All of this was a little bit worrying to me. First of all, I am not an outliner. Whenever I write a synopsis, I find that it tends to kill the whole book, because you can write all kinds of stuff in a synopsis and make it sound good, but when you try to put it onto the page, you realize that your planned plot is stupid and inorganic and untrue to the characters. Also, for me, the first chapter of the book requires by far the most work, because writing the first chapter means locking down your main character, voice, major conflicts, major side-characters, setting, plot intensity and plot style, narrative closeness, tense, point of view, and all kinds of other little things.
In this case, I’ve lost track of how long I spent trying to think up an idea for the best book. I think I’ve been trying to do it since at least Sept. 1st. I had a brief breakthrough in, I think, October, when I wrote a really good chapter. Like, an amazing chapter. It was expansive and emotional and covered about two years in the span of seven thousand words. And it was so good that it made me cry. Anyway, at this point it was actually a chapter of backstory in a novel for adults, and I think it was like the third or fourth chapter in a book? Anyway, the rest of the book was terrible, so I trashed it and moved on to other ideas.
But a few weeks ago, when I started working on Enter Title Here revisions, I came back to that chapter. I couldn’t believe it was just rotting away in some discarded file. Actually, it was hard to find. I’d forgotten which draft of which book it was buried inside. But when I eventually pulled it out and plopped it into what I was working on right now, I stood back and was like, “Hrm, how do I make this fit?”
So I moved that chapter around. I made it one of three point of views. I chopped it up and then I put it back together. Eventually, it migrated to the beginning of the book. Then I was like, “Hmm, you know what? That kind of works as a first chapter.” But then I was still stymied (keep in mind, by the way, that I’m doing this in my odd moments after revising ETH), because nothing seemed to fit. That chapter was such a singular thing that whatever I put afterwards seemed slack and feeble.
Finally, though, I scraped away everything I’d written except that chapter. And I sat down. And I was like, “You know what might work? What if…I just write more chapters…that are in the style of that first chapter? Hmm…”
And that’s what I did. I wrote a second chapter. And it flowed extremely well. Extremely naturally. I started moving on to the third chapter, and that was coming out with lots of fluency as well. Then just as I was getting going, I was like, “Shit…if I keep doing this, I’m just going to end up writing the whole book.”
So I jotted down a synopsis (trying to ignore the fact that people are going to expect me to actually hold to that thing), and put it together with those two chapters, and sent it to my agent. And someday soon it will, I think, go to my editor.
There is a very real possibility that Disney will come back and say they hate it. Maybe I’ll go back to the drawing board. Or maybe they’ll want massive changes to the synopsis and I’ll struggle to incorporate them. I know plenty of authors who had to go through the wringer before they even got out of the proposal stage.
I don’t like to write about failures on my blog (at least not before they’re well in the past), so the way you’ll know that my proposal got turned down is if I never ever talk about it again. I hope it doesn’t get turned down, though. This is a book that I’m excited about. And it’s one that I think I can actually write. Of course, actually writing it is probably going to be hell. I imagine the book will fall apart fifty times, and that I’ll curse the day I ever wrote this blog post. But right now I’m happy to be feeling optimistic.