Well I’ve spent the last two weeks revising what I hope’ll be my second YA novel: It’s Probably Just A Phase (formerly known as Tell Em They’re Amazing). I just sent the book off to Robert, my new agent, and I don’t think there’s going to be any more rounds of revision (though we’ll see). So if you never hear about the book again, that means that it didn’t sell!
I reread the whole thing today just to make sure that it was internally consistent (when you revise, sometimes you forget to line up all the little bits and pieces), and I found myself thinking, “This book is pretty effing good.”
This was not something I always felt. When I first began the book in April of 2014, I was like, well, okay, there’s something here. It’s got a nice voice and all. But the whole thing was a mess, both narratively and structurally, and as I worked on it I was consistently telling myself, okay so it’s not as good as Enter Title Here, but it’s probably good enough to sell.
The book has gone through round and round of revision (most of them instigated and directed by my own intuition) and with each round the book has improved, but each time I’ve also been like…well…it’s better, but it’s still not as good as Enter Title Here.
Now…this book certainly hasn’t displaced ETH in my heart. Writing ETH was like a religious experience. Reshma appeared so fully-formed in my head, and remarkably little revision was needed in order to sell the book. Moreover, I just identified so strongly with her, and the criticism her character has taken since publication has only made me feel more tenderly about the book.
Buuuuuuut…I do think It’s Probably Just A Phase is the better book. It really took this last revision to tip it over. Everything is finally lined up in a row. The themes and character arcs make sense. Moreover, I finally like all the characters. They feel really alive to me, and I have that sense of tenderness for them that I felt for Reshma. Moreover, I think they’re really messy and honest, but not in a way where I’m just trying to excuse bad plotting or characterization by saying “They’re messy and honest.” The characters have no idea what’s going on, but I, the author, am still in control, and I know what’s up.
The book has truly been a joy to write. I’ve had to learn an amazing amount about how to plot and structure a quieter, more character-based narrative, and that’s something I really needed to learn in order to write the sort of stuff that I plan to write. But, moreover, the experience of writing this book has been useful on a broader level. It’s nice to know that you don’t need to be absolutely one hundred percent in love with a book in order to write it. Sometimes all you need is to love it just enough that you’re willing to keep working on it (which is a pretty high threshold in itself, I might add! I’ve abandoned so many books simply because I couldn’t bear to reread the opening chapter another twenty or thirty times.)
As for what’s next? Well…I have no idea.