Well, How About That?

Sometime in the middle of 2002, I got an acceptance from Josepha Sherman at Walker Books for a YA titled Rule, Covenant, and Promise, a very dark high fantasy young adult series. I was thrilled about the pending sale, because I love YA and had always wanted to write some. (YA is Young Adult, for those not familiar with book jargon.)

My beloved, accepted, not-yet-paid-for series promptly killed Walker’s YA line.

So I stuck it on my hard drive and forgot about it. My then-agent was unenthused about YA in general and my YA in particular, and I had other books to write (there are always other books to write), so I got on with my life. And then, in the press of many other novels, I even forgot the YA existed. Several months ago I stumbled across it again in the weblog, and then found the 90 pages I’d actually written on my hard drive. But I did not find the extended outline, the short synopses of ideas for other stories in the series (they’re intended to be sequential stand-alones), or any of my worldbuilding. Which meant if I wanted to work on the project, I would have to redo all that work, retrofitting around the ninety existing pages.

I put the YA aside again. Because that was a lot of work, and there were other books to write. There are always … yeah, yeah. Anyway.

You know about the romance/paranormal thing I’ve been pitching. My agent was not crazy about it. She wanted to know what else I had. You know about Hell Year and The Neverending Proposal, which left me with a dozen fully-fleshed out proposals and sample chapters that were deemed too smart or too complex for the current women’s fiction market. You don’t know about the perky fantasy romance thing I came up with that was sort of Sympathy for the Devil meets Bullfinch’s Mythology over lunch at the office.

I tossed two of those to her, but … well, she wanted to know what else I had.

So I sent her that YA.

And she loved it. Loved, loved it. So did Diana, her assistant.

Problem is, I left myself one monster cliffhanger, and I have no clue what happens next. I don’t remember what I’d planned. I don’t remember the actual writing of this story. Those ninety pages, the characters, and the adventure fell out of my fingertips with a mind of their own, and while I’m reading the story and refamiliarizing myself with what’s there, and falling in love with the characters and the world … it’s like playing that party game where someone else writes a paragraph and ends it with a stumper, and you’re the one who has to pick up and write the next paragraph. 2002 me had something in mind for this, but 2006 me has no insight into the mind of that earlier self, and now is going to have to rough it.

So now I’m retrofitting a missing world, an absentee mythology, wayward languages, escapee maps, and an AWOL outline and several synopses. And swearing at the bitch who wrote this stuff and didn’t file her damned notes.

That’s my day. And probably week.

How’s yours?

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

13 comments… add one
  • hollylisle May 2, 2006 @ 15:40

    I’m with you folks on the rant. I too love deep, complex books with tight plots that require me to think, and that include meaning and soul as part of the dialogue between writer and reader. Those are what I want to read, they’re what I want to write, they’re what make me happy, they’re what make me want to come to work at six in the morning.

    Unfortunately, that is not where marketing has concluded the big numbers are, so “we won’t be buying any more of those, thank you very much.”

    As one lady at a books signing once told me, when she looked at my books and blew me off, “I only read trashy books, honey.”

    I didn’t bother to ask her definition of trashy, but she did have a Collins and a Steel in her hands as she headed for the checkout counter. I have no intention of competing for that market. This fact makes life … tough.

  • Caryle May 2, 2006 @ 15:19

    Too smart or too complex? Urgh. (supressing rant) Okay, maybe not supressing rant…

    I may not be the brightest penny in the bunch, but I do have a brain, and sometimes I actually like to use it. Perhaps it’s assumptions that women cannot or do not wish to follow smart or complex stories that cause so called “Literary” fiction writers to look down their noses at genre fiction. Heaven forbid someone write a story with a plot that requires paying attention without inspiring the reader to conclude that life is meaningless and we should all give up now. Done ranting now. (looking sheepish)

    Congratulations on the YA story. I’m sure it will be excellent, Holly!

  • kalliope May 2, 2006 @ 13:00

    I loved the snippet of Rule, Covenant, and Promise, so I’m excited that the project may finally get the go-ahead. I can’t wait to read it!

    I just finished Talyn the other day (stealing time in the morning on a day I’d taken off of work to finish a paper), and I thoroughly enjoyed that, too. I’m just discovering your books, even though I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. I should have started sooner.

  • shay May 2, 2006 @ 6:33

    hope it all works out and that the YA market gets the attention it deserves as it’s the area i’m working in and what i write doesn’t seem to fly with agents either.
    either way, hope it all goes well and i’m looking forward to any new work that you do 🙂

  • Jim May 1, 2006 @ 19:37

    Well, philosophically I agree with Rick, but I know what you mean — Sex in the City sells and sells, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman makes a brief spash and dies with nary a whimper.

    Good luck with the series. I’ll buy it and try to foist it off on the YA around here. (I may have mentioned in an E-mail last summer being shocked when the girls in my son’s church group began talking about Full Metal Alchemist and Interview with a Vampire on the field trip I chaperoned for him.

  • Rick May 1, 2006 @ 14:59

    I’m really disturbed that they think anything is too “smart” to be women’s fiction, but I’m sure I’d be preaching to the choir here.

    So I’ll wish you a bunch of luck with this YA stuff, because that is a genre that I’d love to rediscover and you’re the best reason I can think of to do so.

  • chk May 1, 2006 @ 14:56

    A bunch of books I read in the ’80s as adult SF&F are now being republished as YA SF&F. I’m not entirely sure why, but at least it’s in print again…

  • TinaK May 1, 2006 @ 11:09

    Wait? They didn’t like the proposal you sent off a few weeks ago that YOU LOVED? The one with the former butter first scene? The one with the three ladies talking about clients? That one didn’t fly? I liked that. I want to read that. *whine*. 🙂 But YA is good too – I read all my son’s fantasy YA books and I know he’d love something written by you. Can’t wait to see this one develop.

  • shawna May 1, 2006 @ 10:28

    now that I think about it, there are two places you might check… the LAST place you’d ever think to look for it… and the ONE place you’re absolutely sure it cannot be. LOL. Seems like that is where my missing things always reappear.

  • shawna May 1, 2006 @ 10:27

    Somehow I don’t think I ought to wish you a happy lucky finding of those old notes… because, at least if it were me, they’d magically appear about the time I didn’t need them anymore…

    but good luck at… well, something. anyways.

  • PJ May 1, 2006 @ 10:21

    Ugh. How frustrating. Do you have an old backup stuck somewhere? On the upside, however, you have had some very different experiences since then (Talyn), so I’m guessing it will be better! ^_^

    As for my week: well, my crit group has agreed to start meeting every week, which means more excerpts, which means I have to get cranking on the story which isn’t finished yet, or I’m quickly going to run out of material! EEP! Still, a little pressure can be a good thing. 😉

  • Adam101 May 1, 2006 @ 9:59

    Well, how annoying. I hope you have fun with it, and I cant wait for some YA stuff. I enjoy reading your adult stuff but I am a YA so i may even like those more.

    Keep Writing, have fun.

  • miladyinsanity May 1, 2006 @ 9:28

    There is a kind of joy in looking through something you wrote a long time ago and getting the itch to restart it.

    I just reread the beginnings of a WIP that I put down. It clicks for me–but then, I wrote it last year, and it’s only 200k words or so ago.

    I hope it goes well for you, Holly. It sounds like the kind of thing I want to read–actually, most of what you write is the kind of book I want to read. 🙂

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