I finally heard back from the agent who’s been reading the novel I worked with an editor to revise this past year. Before I share her email and update you on the next step, here’s a recap of Cherry Bomb’s conception and progress: (dates are approximate)
2010-2011: Drafted novel and submitted early chapters to various workshops and writing groups.
2011: First three chapters made the short list for “Novel in Progress” at the Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.
2011-2012: Worked with freelance editor and three early readers on major revisions.
2012-2013: Spent six months querying literary agents. The 75th agent I queried loved the book and asked me to work with an editor on further revisions.
May 2013: Began work with current editor.
July 2013: Car wreck. Everything stopped for almost a year.
July 2014: Sent revisions back to literary agent.
October 2014: Heard back from agent’s assistant after several folks in her office read this round of revisions:
(Agent’s Name) has asked me to send you her best regards and to thank you for sending the revised Cherry Bomb, which our readers, and (Agent’s Name), have had time to review. Congratulations on this last edit! We know how hard you have worked on your book and it has certainly improved a lot.
As before, we think your storyline is commercial and unique. Our readers and (Agent’s Name) thoroughly enjoyed your smooth and vivid writing style, and the characters are real and believable, especially Elaine and Mare. The pacing is great and we feel that your book has commercial potential.
However, we think that your story could be fleshed out more as it seems to be rather rushed especially towards to the end and given that the story is shorter than most books, there is room to develop the characters and events.
The Elaine and Mare’s POV’s seem reasonably well connected, but Neema’s story doesn’t now somehow fit into the narrative since the last edit. We think that without Neema’s point of view, Elaine and Mare’s stories would become more compelling. Or further linking Neema with the other two narratives would also work better. This sometimes happens as story’s develop and Elaine and Mare’s characters are really well rounded now.
We would love your book to be ready to send out, but we are sure you are aware that polishing a book up to publishable standard is a long process that often requires several steps, as today publishers require books to be 99% ready and the market is tough.
We know that you have been diligently working with the editor to refine Cherry Bomb, and we do urge you to continue to work on your book. It is a really fascinating story and well researched.
As always we would be very happy to read your book again after further editing.
We hope you have a lovely day, Susan, and again we are sorry your book isn’t ready yet but it has improved tremendously.
The reality is this: 52k words is too short for a mass market novel, and it seems like your readers are telling you exactly where the extra 30k or so words have to come from: Neema. If she doesn’t feel integrated now (and I’ll certainly be able to speak to that more elegantly after I read), AND if the prose around her is still as strong as it was last year, the solution is to tease out that storyline to more fullness. I know that the thought of adding so much content seems daunting, but please do not worry! After this round of reading, we will have a very clear picture of how to develop Neema’s story, and I’ll keep an eye out as I read for other areas of content that might be able to use some extra breathing room.
Looking so forward to getting started!
So now I’m waiting to receive the editor’s overview and hopefully some clear direction on fleshing out the Neema character more fully and integrating her into the story—connecting her to Mare and Elaine more solidly.
I’m sharing all of this for my readers who are also writers, just so you’ll see how long and involved the process of writing and revising a novel for publication can sometimes be. And for my readers who are not writers, but who keep asking how the novel is coming along. I hope to receive the editor’s new overview soon so I can get back to work. This waiting part is difficult—I don’t feel “free” enough to keep working on the other novel I started in May, so I’m using this lull to catch up on other projects: Decorating our front porch for Halloween, designing our 2014 Christmas cards, critiquing manuscripts for my Memphis writing group, and hosting another literary salon on October 28. Stay tuned for updates as I begin Round Three on the novel revisions. And always, thanks for reading!