My favorite agent passed.
She seemed to have the right combination of inexperience and talent and drive to take on an unproven client (me), but my book’s first three chapters didn’t last even as many days, and I got a form rejection. Back to zero, then, as the only other agent to request chapters hasn’t responded since acquiring them a month ago. I’m not counting her out, but it’s not looking good.
So the book has finally and at last fallen out of my better esteem. Especially those first three chapters. Overall I’m starting to look at it as overly plotted, amateurish, melodramatic at times, and those three chapters are on the verge of a complete rewrite. I’m considering demolishing the whole project, mainly because the last two books I’ve read were the first two Rabbit novels, and Updike’s style is so vastly different than the book I wrote that I can’t even think about them in the same brain hemisphere, because the comparison of the two suggests I did everything wrong, just everything.
It’s not that bad. Not everything is wrong. But it does make me roll my eyes at some of the things I tried. What I tried was to know everything. That was the goal, in revision. The first draft of a given chapter, no, not really, I tried to write the truest thing to the given situation for a given character, but I the revision I think. That may have doomed it into unpublishability. By the end of that third chapter you get a sense of a cycle being completed in the author’s mind, a bunch of loose ends tied up, all the random things that happened in chapter three on the first draft whose roots I went back and planted throughout the previous two chapters. As if everyone were in on it, a conspiracy, that’s what it feels like now, everyone combined forces and made the plot happen against their better judgments, based on what I wanted to happen. Too scripted. The coincidental character paths collided in an overly convenient way, and this revealed the coincidences, and if there’s one thing I know about good fiction it is that coincidences need to stay buried, especially in a multi-narrational novel, those character arcs have to feel independent, seven individual stories that seem to happen independent of the others but really have been so carefully weaved that you don’t notice the overlap. Until the end. If the author is even that generous.
Jesus, the rest of the novel only gets worse. Might as well change my name to M. Night.
There is no such thing as willful coercion. If anyone conspires to do anything, it’s for the possibility of independent gain, or because there is some outside force (author, CIA director, fascist dictator) imposing an individual mandate on the situation, or because all parties have agreed ahead of time to act as a team to achieve a certain goal, i.e., have a successful marriage, or win a baseball game. What I’ve managed to do with this novel, I’m seeing now, is to write about a shortstop fielding the ball and throwing over to the first baseman in a slick play that just nabs the runner, all the while trying to claim these two people had no idea what the other was going to do. No no! I’m saying with this book, these two people have never met! and they are both blindfolded! The movements they are making are perfectly natural, nothing extraordinary about them, bending over to pick up a ball and chucking it into space in a direction picked at random, this is a thing people do quite naturally, right? and it just so happens to be in the exact direction of the other player, who also just so happens to raise his glove and squeeze at the exact moment the ball enters its webbing, and all with a foot on the bag, too! Wasn’t that magical, reader? Do you feel the magic?
Well do you?
I’m not sending this book to another agent, no. Not how it is. Not that it can even be fixed.