At the end of December, my relationship with Tess and the Trinket arrived at a turning point. I received eye-opening feedback from a small publisher, realized that the book was not ready to be pitched, sent the first act to a local editor, and sent the first chapter to be workshopped with a group of (lovely) middle schoolers.
The book needs another rewrite, in which some characters are nixed, some stakes are raised, and some chapters are completely butchered.
At first, I tried not to think about it. How can I spend two years on this novel, editing and rewriting and editing again, whittle down the word count, start lining up writers conferences, and start researching agents without noticing that the manuscript was not finished? What does that say about my writing? Or my ability to recognize good writing? I was felt I could hardly look at those stinking pages ever again.
But then I did. And I realized that the first chapters were not strong, as everyone was telling me. And I started to look at the plot as a vine to be pruned. Instead of whittling sentences, I was going to whittle characters and action, motivations and revelations. For a week, I furiously scribbled new ideas to fix the book. I rewrote the first eight scenes by hand. Then I got more feedback from a trusted brother in law and two middle school English classes, which both confirmed and enhanced my plans for the rewrite.
Then I read "On Writing", which taught me that I had never allowed a cool down period on my own writing, which made it impossible to gain any perspective on it. Additionally, I learned the detriment of spilling all my story secrets before they were ready for the world, which also set me back.
So, yes, Tess and the Trinket is at least several months behind what I thought it was. And yes, the full MS still hasn't gone to a single beta reader. But this is the process of becoming a writer: trial and error, feet to the fire, perseverance. The only difference between a published author and a failed writer is that the author never quit.
Now, while I wait for the (very slow and hard to reach) editor to return her comments, I am starting a new novel. It is completely different and totally exciting, and I feel a thousand million times better equipped to write it than I did for Tess and the Trinket. You may NOT know anything about it, because, as J.K. Rowling says, that's the best way to kill an idea stone dead.
Never you fear, loyal fans (she said to the mirror)! Tess and the Trinket will triumph over her enemies (namely the amateur mistakes of her author)!
As an extra treat, I give you a hand-drawn illustration of Tess Canyon, courtesy of the Westminster Schools of Augusta.