I hired an editor named Alice to read my manuscript. I wanted her to tell me how to make it salable.
She took a month with it. She wrote me a fifteen page letter. Suggested I shuffle chapters, hone characters, add new scenes, chop others.
On Tuesday, I spent an hour on the phone with her. She said, "There's no reason this book shouldn't be published. You're almost there. Do NOT give up." She even added a, "Please."
I went about the rest of my day filled with possibility and hope. Could I really pull it off? Did I have it in me to rewrite yet again and send it on the agent junket once more? I thought I did.
So I started cutting, writing new scenes, rearranging.
And now I am standing in the middle of a room that's being remodeled–-with drywall hanging, floors stripped, dust everywhere, wondering if it will ever look livable again. In the span of just three days I've hit lows where I felt dirty and gritty, a cross-cut saw at my feet and nails clenched between my teeth. And I've experienced moments of triumph where I scrawled a scene that accomplished exactly what Alice and I wanted it to, and I thought, Maybe. Possibly. This just might work.
There are other things needing my attention, of course. Kids and meals and completely banal chores like floors that want to be swept and old lamps waiting to be sold on Craigslist.
But I am giving my manuscript all the extra time I have. Everything I've got. And if that's not enough...then maybe I'm just not meant to write and publish a literary novel. I still, though, like to believe I am.