After years of writing and months of querying and re-editing, I’ve made the hard decision to put Catherine, Tara and the red rain boots behind me for a period. I’m going to set my first novel aside and focus on other projects.
When I first started sending my query letter to agents, I heard the same thing over and over again: it’s really hard to get your first books published. But I was confident and kept trying. And I kept getting the same message from agents:
Or something similar. They weren’t liking it. They weren’t falling in love. They weren’t being entranced by my darlings, by sweet, innocent Catherine, who maintains a smile no matter what, or by fiery Tara who doesn’t know what she wants. They weren’t invested in the complicated familial relationships that propel the book. They didn’t love the lines I had penned, lines like:
The swing set that slouched in the corner of the yard, one swing sagging into the dirt beneath it while the other was hiked up around the structure like a dress around a bored flower girl.
So I tried editing it again. But all I kept coming across were more and more questions. Did Tara’s emotional swings make sense? Should I keep the red rain boots at all? Was Jason too perfect, and was he even necessary?
I couldn’t answer those questions. I still can’t. I’m too close to it.
People in the publishing world like to throw around the phrase, “kill your darlings.” It means you have to be willing to let go of anything that doesn’t make your book shine, even if it’s a scene, character or turn of language that you love. I’m not there with Red Rain Boots, not even close. I’ve spent so much time on this book that the thought of massively revamping it kills me (no pun intended 😜).
But in the meantime I’ve written the first draft of a different novel. A stronger novel. A funnier novel. One with a more distinct voice: My Mom’s a Killer.
It’s been several months since I finished writing MMaK, so I think it’s time to start editing. And letting other people take a look (and by “letting,” I mean forcing, obviously). And querying. And trying, once more, to get published.
I’m keeping my hopes high that I’ll still publish Red Rain Boots one day. I want everyone to fall for Catherine the way I have. I’m still proud of that book. But I’m starting to realize that maybe this isn’t the time for RRB.
It’s the time for Keira, Jo and Derek to storm off of the pages and into the literary world, for people to laugh at Keira’s dark humor and Jo’s sass, for me to make my debut into the contemporary YA circuit.
It’s time for me to say goodbye to some of my darlings and get back to work.