You may have noticed that I didn't follow up on that post with news about a book deal. That's because there wasn't one. That fact was what at least in part inspired my post about failure.
Here's what happened: around ten editors read my novel and six of them had the same criticism-- they weren't "falling in love" (that's verbatim) with the main character. Unlike most other areas of my life, when I receive criticism about my writing, I find it very easy to take in and evaluate. I've always had good readers, and their critiques usually resonate with me.
In this case, though, both I and my agent were completely blindsided. Likewise, when I told my readers the reason the editors were passing, they were all shocked. That particular problem (an unsympathetic protagonist) just wasn't on anyone's radar. It's not that I was surprised at a lack of a book deal--I'm not so arrogant as to think it's something I deserved--, it's that I wasn't expecting my main character to be the novel's Achilles heel.
My agent and I had to make a decision, then. You see, once you approach an editor and they pass, there are no second chances. Even if the book is re-written, that particular editor won't read it again. Most publishing houses have multiple editors so in theory you could pitch the novel to a different editor within the same company, but my understanding of it is that's not always the best idea for lots of reasons.
The options were to keep the book on the market and continue pitching it to different publishing houses, but we ran the risk of burning through all the houses with whom we wanted to work; the other option was to pull the book before we lost the other four initial editors to whom my agent pitched it, and I would revise it.
I love my agent. She said, "if this is the book you've written, and this is the book you want to put out into the world, I'll keep working at it." She told me she had great respect for me as an author and trusted my judgement, which was nice to hear, because I no longer trusted myself. It only took me a couple minutes to decide that I wanted to pull it and do more revisions. It was both a hard decision and an easy one, though mostly it was a demoralizing decision. Because my readers, my agent, and I had never considered my main character's lovability as a weakness, I had no idea how to fix the problem.
It took me nine months to get through the revisions, and it's the most miserable writing and editing I've ever done. I hated it, and when I was about half way through, I threw out all the changes I'd already made because I realized I was writing the wrong novel. Facing the prospect of starting over yet again, I came within inches of quitting. Honestly, I don't know why I didn't quit. I just didn't.
Throughout those months, my agent gave me space to do the revisions, but I didn't volunteer any updates; I was terrified that if I reached out, she'd remember I was dead weight, and she would drop me. You might think that fear would help push me through the revisions faster, but it had the opposite effect.
On June 1, with no idea how I'd gotten through it, I pressed "send" on the latest version. They had a few tweaks to my tweaks, which was, at that point, fine, because I'd already spent so damn long on the thing, what was a bit more?
Then, finally, almost exactly a year after the start of the first go, my agent once again started sending my novel out to editors.
It's now been 26 days since my book hit various editors' desks. According to people who know stuff about this process, responses can take anywhere from "right away to six months." I'm trying not to obsess, but it's impossible. If anything, this wait is worse than last year because I know that I'm done with my book. I and my wonderful readers and my agent have taken it as far as we can. If it doesn't pan out this time, "Worthy" is going on my shelf.
I'm trying to prepare myself for that, and to think of it as something other than failure. I've had some pretty remarkable successes on my way here, and I'm trying to make that be enough.
It's not, though; at least not this time around.