If you remember the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character (Phil, the local TV weatherman) kept waking up on that day, and relives it over and over and over again. During this process he evolves from a selfish, ego-centric asshole to someone who respects people, cares about others, and is actually likeable. He finds himself falling in love with Andie MacDowell’s character, and wants to become someone she can love in return, hence the transformation.
I bring this up because my quest to become published has made me feel the same sense of deja vu Phil experienced. The dream is an endless loop that brings me back to the same place, and never arrives at a conclusion.
I first wrote about getting published back in May of 2018. I had hopes 2018 would be the year it would happen, but the process really didn’t get started in earnest until early 2019. I had to re-edit the manuscript for what felt like the thousandth time, and once that was completed the manuscript was sent to a bunch of publishing houses. I believed this was the end of the process and was confident that 2019 would be the year. I was wrong.
Early last month I got the word from my agent that the feedback she had been receiving was that as a first-time author, the publishers would not consider looking at a manuscript that exceeded 85,000 words.
The original draft had approximately 150,000 words. When my agent first took a gander at it, she said it had to be 100,000 words or less, otherwise nobody would look at it. So I spent months revising the thing, and after several iterations got it down to a little less than 100,000. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I learned I had to go through this all over again.
My initial reaction, which I never expressed, was “Are you shitting me?!” I was pissed. Chopping 15,000 words from a manuscript you think is tight is no easy feat. In fact, I thought it impossible. But I hadn’t looked at the manuscript for close to eight months, and it turns out it wasn’t as tight as I thought.
My first effort netted a savings of maybe 5,000 words, but that wasn’t good enough. So the second time I was more ruthless and thought I hit the magic number, but only got it down to 87,000.
If I’m honest, this is a far superior version because there was a lot of fluff in what I thought was the final edition. This one is much tighter and the story doesn’t lose a thing, so perhaps there is a method to this madness. But now I have to read it one final time (hopefully) and see if there are any other pieces of text that don’t really add to the story that can be removed. The resulting outcome will have to be good enough.
This process really sucks, if for no other reason than the fact that I have read this thing from beginning to end at least 100 times and am tired of it. It wasn’t so bad during the first go-around in December, but this will be the third revision in a month. I’m so sick of looking at it I’m tempted to burn the thing and be done with it, but I can’t and won’t. I’ve invested too much time in the process to give up now. Hopefully this does the trick.
The only silver lining to this is that I have an excuse for not starting a second novel, the storyline of which has been in my head of almost a year. If and when that process starts, I’d like to think I’ve learned enough from this experience not to have to write and re-write it as many times. If that’s not the case, maybe I should wait until I retire so I can devote myself to this full-time.