So I’m finishing up Agnes—ARGH—and looking ahead to the next book, which is actually my last book, the late, unfinished You Again.
For those of you not up to date on this saga, three years ago I gave my editor, who is a genius and a saint, 64,000 words of a work in progress called You Again. The book was under contract and past deadline, so I said, “Honestly, I’ve been working, here look,” and sent her the manuscript but I also knew that I was hopelessly, hopelessly lost. So we met in the tearoom at the Algonquin Hotel, and while the ghost of Dorothy Parker wept into her scotch in sympathy, my editor said, “Nope.” Well, first she and I talked about it, what was working, what wasn’t, but at the end of the conversation, she said, “Put it aside and start something new.”
I was so grateful, I almost wept right there with Dorothy.
Because I had been fighting that manuscript for so long, knowing the story was there but absolutely clueless as to how to fix, hell, how to find it, that I was almost suicidal. I’d even sent it to the guy I was collaborating with who insists he can fix anything. I gave it to him on a Monday; he said, “I’ll have it to you fixed by Wednesday.” On Wednesday, he said, “This is trickier than I thought, I’ll get it you to Friday.” On Friday he said, “This is going to take the weekend.” On Sunday he said, “What the hell did you do to this thing?”
So I put it in a drawer and moved on to Don’t Look Down, and “Hot Toy,” and The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, and Agnes and the Hitman, all collaborations except for the novella because I loved collaborating (and I’m going to do it again, too). But now I’m done collaborating for a while and it’s time to fly solo again and I’m heading back to that bottom drawer to see if I can salvage You Again.
I have to. People keep asking about it. I showed it to too many people while I was working on it. “Whatever happened to You Again?” they ask. “Sixty-four thousand words? Hell, just sit down and bang out the last thirty-six and you’ve got a novel.” Oh, if it only worked that way.
Plus I really want to go back. I loved You Again. I loved the heroine, Zelda, and her best friend, Scylla (pronounced Cilla, and that’s going to cause trouble), and the hero was great, James, a good guy, and then there was Rose, the surrogate mother from Zelda’s past without a maternal bone in her body, and Quentin the butler, and of course the supporting cast which was . . . uh, large. And I loved the premise, it was going to be my version of the classic Agatha Christie because I’m a huge Christie fan, only probably more Margery Allingham because I’m an even bigger Allingham fan, with some Rex Stout thrown in maybe . . . . Well, you can see how the plot got away from me. And why the beta readers kept saying, “Who ARE these people? And what the hell is going on?” I loved the damn book but it was a mess, so much so that I’m not sure I can fix it even now. I just moved the file to my new laptop and it’s sitting on the desktop looking at me. The last time I opened it was May of 2005. It has digital dust all over it. I’m afraid.
So my plan is to not do it alone. I’m taking you all with me. I’m going to journal about trying to restart You Again and then if it doesn’t work again, I’ll let it go forever and start a new book, and if anybody asks, I can just refer them to this blog.
I figure the first thing I’ll have to do is reconceptualize it. Before I open it, I’ll try to remember what I loved about it, what’s stuck with me these three years, the things I can’t let go of. I’ll figure out what the book feels like—I’ve still got the collage after all—the emotional shape of it, and then I’ll get some touchstones in place so I don’t run off the rails.
After that, I’ll have to do the basic outline which I would explain here but I’m explaining my form of outlining in general over on the HWSW blog right now so go there if you’re curious. If not, I’ll be getting to it here in a couple of days.
And then I’m going to have to open that file and take a look. That’s when I’ll do the Twelve Days of Zelda. (Somebody out there is thinking, “Twelve days. If she did three thousand words a day, she’d have that novel done.” No.)
And by the time that’s done, somewhere after Valentine’s Day, I’ll know if You Again is back again or gone forever.
It’s a plan.
But in the meantime, this has to be cheering up writers all over the place. I have a contract with a publisher and I still got rejected, in mid-book no less. It happens to everybody. Publishing. Gotta love it.