Last week, I shared that my editor at Random House and I had some creative differences regarding my second novel. In the end, although she complimented the quality of the writing, she determined it wasn’t the novel we both needed to take my career to the next level. A writer’s second book is critical to expanding the audience gained after the first and to establish himself as a bankable artist.
As I said then, once I picked my spirits up off the floor, I realized that I was in familiar territory. After all, three novels had been summarily rejected by a host of agents before I was able to gain representation with So Shelly; rejection has been the norm throughout my entire writing experience. I soon found myself in a familiar and positive mindset: I became stubbornly determined to prove myself again as a writer. I realized that, perhaps, I had already grown complacent in the writing of the second novel. I think that my editor recognized my complacency and, like any good coach or teacher, refused to accept anything but my very best. Also, like any good coach or teacher, she raised the bar and made it clear that what was good enough last time will never be good enough again if I am to improve as a writer and carve out a career in a publishing field overcrowded with talented writers.
As I reflected further, I realized that in the writing of my failed second novel, I’d made the mistake that I constantly warn myself against, both as a writer and a person: I had reached back into my past efforts and tried to resurrect an old writing project rather than forging ahead with an original piece. It was the easiest and shortest route, and as usual, the shortcut cost me more time and energy wasted than if I would have simply started from scratch with something fresh right from the start. In life, I try very hard to live without looking back. I always say that the car that I’m driving through life has no rear or side view mirrors. I only look ahead. The past is littered with too many regrets and too many irretrievable moments (good and bad) that plead with me to shift into reverse or neutral, and life’s too short for either. I have things to do. In my writer’s soul, I know my editor was right, and I think I expected it to be rejected all along. As she said and I knew, the story was good, but it wasn’t great. Random House doesn’t settle for good. They shouldn’t, and neither should I.
This past week I’ve been researching, note-taking, outlining, and beginning to write another novel. It’s another one, like Shelly did, that has been brewing in my mind for a long time, and I’m enjoying the process more than I ever have. The good news is that my editor has made it very clear that Random House wants me in their stable of writers, and they are willing to wait for another great novel. I just need to deliver it.