Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Light of Day


I composed an e-mail, attached a file, hit Send, and away flew my manuscript to New York. My second novel is now in the hands of my editor and agent.

Second novel—but the first one I’ve written under a deadline. This is the thing about novel writing: Your first novel, nobody cares. I mean that literally. Nobody cares. Only you, the writer, care. You have to care enough so that it doesn’t bother you that nobody else cares. For years, if you’re like most of us.

Harsh? Maybe. It’s just that so many people start writing novels, and not many finish them. One out of a hundred, is the going quote, although how someone came up with that number, I’ve no idea. Anyway, there’s a lot of half-written books out there. So, when it comes to fiction, agents and editors don’t want to see it or hear about it until it’s finished and polished to a bright sterling shine.

The upside? You can take as long as you want or need to get that polished gleam in your manuscript. For my first novel, Tallulah Falls, it took three complete drafts written over something like 3½ years. Then another major revision for my agent, then another set of revisions for my editor. This doesn’t count all the minor fine-tuning that went into it along the way.

For my seond novel, Taxi Dancer, I had one year. Because this time, lots of people care. My agent, my editor and all the wonderful folks at my publishing house, Bloomsbury. They’re on a schedule. Taxi Dancer is on a schedule. And none of them can do the jobs they do so well, until I turn in the manuscript.

Gotta make the deadline.

And I did.

Now I’ve got a little breather, and I’m catching up. With my friends, most of whom I haven’t seen or talked to in weeks. With my blog (sorry, blog readers!) With my house, oh, the poor house! With my sweetie, who bore all my anxiety and neglect and took me out for margaritas when I knew, just knew, that I’d written the plot into a hole it’d never get out of. (Plot problem solved halfway through margarita and some very fine tamales).

I feel like a bear coming out of hibernation—squinty-eyed and blinking in the sunshine, sniffing the air. Looking to see if the old neighborhood still looks the same, and if there’s any early berries to eat.

Mmm, yes. Blueberries. Time for a snack. More later…


Bookseller Chick said...

Wasn't Taxi Dancer slang for a prostitute in the 40s and 50s. I remember hearing that name applied to a young Joan Crawford and her "job" before she became famous.

Christine Fletcher said...

Hi, BSC!

That's interesting about "taxi dancer" being slang for a prostitute. I didn't find this in my research, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true. Taxi dancers weren't prostitutes, but just by the nature of their job, they were always "suspect." Many taxi dance halls had strict behavior codes for their dancers to prevent any appearance of prostitution. This wasn't for the dancers' benefit -- it was so the dance hall wouldn't get raided and shut down by the cops.

Some taxi dancers did eventually become prostitutes. Many others got married and led exemplary lives. Some went on to become famous actresses -- or First Ladies (ie, Eva Peron of Argentina)!