A year ago (October 9, 2009) I posted on this blog a report on my three year novel-writing endeavor. I concluded:
So it has now been three years since I started working on the novel. I’ve learned a lot in those three years, and managed to get several short fiction pieces published (including one of the chapters of the novel.)
Over the last couple of weeks I thought about whether I should continue with this project or start fresh on a new novel. I decided I’m not ready to give up on it yet. I’m going to hire another editor to give me a fresh perspective and then I’m going to write it one more time.
Hey - it’s only been three years—and it’s nowhere near the size of a Chicago phonebook. And I don’t look as old as that guy in the picture. Not yet, anyway.
So I started rewriting in November and by the time I attended the summer workshops at Skidmore and Norman Mailer I had another forty thousand words written. The workshops helped me to see what was working and what wasn’t. When I returned from Provincetown I had a clear vision of how to finish the novel.
I finished it (again) last month and have sent copies out to a couple of trusted reader / writers for feedback.
I have also hired Marita Golden who was my instructor at The Norman Mailer Writers Colony to give the manuscript a critical reading. I am hopeful that she will identify the novel’s weaknesses and provide me with some ideas on how I can make it better.
It’s a good novel. I have a lot of confidence in the work, but I’m not satisfied that it is as good as I can possibly make it. And until it is I’m not going to send it out. I think I am getting close.
While I’ve been waiting for the feedback, I’ve been working on the query letter that I would send to literary agents to persuade them to represent me. Here’s my latest version:
Dear Ms Agent:
Dancer Stonemason hadn’t always been considered a failure. Fifty years ago he had a free-spirited pregnant wife, a son (Clayton) who thought he was perfect, and an offer to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals. Baseball was Dancer’s life, but when he upheld the honor of the game, he lost everything – his career, his marriage and Clayton’s belief in him. Now Dancer’s a recovering alcoholic living in a trailer park on the outskirts of Maple Springs, Missouri, washing cars for his younger son. He’s reconciled to the world, but not to Clayton. When Dancer fails to show for his granddaughter’s wedding rehearsal he sets in motion a series of events that force Dancer and Clayton to finally come to terms with their imperfect lives and with each other.
Told against the backdrop of America’s postwar challenges from Little Rock to Viet Nam to Iraq, AMERICAN JUKEBOX is a mainstream novel (74,000 words) about how the decisions we make when we are young can reverberate through the decades effecting the lives of everyone we love. It will appeal to readers who enjoy Elmore Leonard, Richard Russo and Tawni O’Dell.
An excerpt from the novel was published by Annalemma Magazine in October 2009. In recent months I have had stories published in Pindeldyboz, Hobart, 3AM Magazine, The Daily Palette (Iowa Review) and Slow Trains.
I have attached the first chapter and look forward to hearing from you.
So I guess now I’ve been at this for four years. I hope by next October I won’t need to make another status report.