Hola, faithful readers!
Here’s the latest installment in the Saga of the Aspiring Author. Or the Author who aspires to get published by the New York Big Five, at least. Earlier I wrote you about my first rejection letter, how my editor prepped me for being turned down by agents I wish to have represent me (numerous times, she said; expect many rejections and learn to live with them). Yesterday I got another rejection. This time the agent was kind enough to add some perspective to the mix. She said that, while she saw me as a strong writer, and while some of the chapters I sent her were great, others just didn’t resonate with her and served to slow down the narrative. She felt that I didn’t grab the readers by the throat and drag them into the action early enough.
When I got the email I took my coffee out on the deck, threw some Purina dog chow down to the geese waiting in the slough below, and sat for a while in the early morning sun. I thought about how the novel had taken shape: five years of half-true recollections and fantasies riding piggy-back on facts. Our family dog Chub. Oystering on Puget Sound. My Great Aunt and the geoduck with a neck ”pert near as thick as a donkey’s dick’. And I realized that the whole back story of Shelton and the mill and pollution killing the oysters just didn’t enhance the novel. Great prologue material, set in italics and of some interest historically, but irrelevant to the work as a whole.
Trouble was, I loved that part of the story. I loved it so much that I ignored (forgot, actually) my editor’s warning about pacing. Yesterday we talked again and discussed Faulkner’s warning to authors: “In writing, your must kill your darlings.” My darlings were parts of the manuscript that I’d fallen in love with but which ended up being distracting to my readers. They were fine in the beginning, and I needed them like trees need branches to bear fruit. But as the story progressed and the characters grew and took on different lives, then some of the people, locations, and plot lines had to be pruned away.
So it’s time to take them out, gently, and put them in the graveyard. Or maybe limbo. That’s it – a limbo file, and they can be resurrected at a later date. If they were compelling enough to grab my attention in the first place, there may yet be a life for them down the road.