Sent out IT’S PROBABLY JUST A PHASE for what I hope is the last time

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. book_done.gif

Created a novel proposal and sent it off into the world…

proposal-story-graphicNot 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.