Misalignment with Literary Agent; Alignment with Editor

March 12, 2012

THE PROVIDER was the first novel I ever wrote; that was twenty years ago. It has had a turbulent history. As soon as I finished writing it, a non-fiction agent fell from the skies and asked me to expand it from 350 pages to 650 pages (into a saga, and add a sex stream). I did that, in my dazzled eagerness and innocence. Bad idea. Bad idea for this writer.  New York responded, “There’s a lot of muscle here, but no thanks.”  I said goodbye to the agent and from then on treated the novel experimentally, time and time again tampering with it. I learned my craft on it. In the early years following its quick rise and fall, I would send out the first 100 pages to various agents, and invariably the agents would request the rest and then follow up with their rejections.  Until finally, no longer was anyone responding to those 100 pages. Why? Because the European immigrant novel was out of vogue.  It had been superceded by the Asian novel and the Hispanic novel. 

I went on to write four more novels, a screenplay, and a collection of short stories.

During that time, one night visiting in Australia, my host and I sat talking late into the night. The subject of THE PROVIDER came up, and I related its sad history. My host was a counselor with the Aborigines, and she dealt with life in terms of essentials. She advised me to return the novel to its original form “where people really live.” I came home and did just that.

More years passed, during which time I finally met an editor who thought as I thought.  (Why didn’t I use an editor during all those early years? Because how could I know that any editor would be wiser than the agent who asked me to build THE PROVIDER to double its original size?) By the time I did meet my  editor, however, I had returned the novel to its original size, to its essentials, to the pristine. I  saw that this editor knew her business, knew what the novel was all about, what it required. So I revised it once again.

When someone asks me how long it took to write the novel, I sigh, “Twenty years.”

Can you imagine the enormity of my emotions at the Book Launch? It was one of the great moments of my life.  Guests were made aware of the novel’s long history.  And now, my readers are saying, “Write a sequel.”