American Past Time - $15.00

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American Past Time
A novel by Len Joy

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Friday, September 28, 2012

The Novel So Far - Quitting Time



This is the third (and final) report on my novel progress. My first post was in October 2009. At that time I had been at work on the novel, “American Jukebox,” for three years. It was always an “accidental” novel. I took a course on novel writing at the Graham School and since I didn’t have a novel I borrowed a short story I had written and just kept expanding it.


“American Jukebox,” is the story of a minor-league pitcher, who hurls a perfect game and loses everything. Since 2009 I’ve rewritten it at least three times. With each rewrite it got better, more novel-like, more focused. I had a lot of professional help over the years. I hired an impressive lineup of successful novelists to read and critique my work: Barbara Croft (“Moon’s Crossing”), Patrick Somerville (“The Cradle”), Whitney Otto (“How to Build an American Quilt”), Sands Hall, (“Catching Heaven”), Marita Golden (“After”) and finally this spring, Pamela Erens (“The Understory”). I also had friends like Ania Vesenny, Laura Krause, Joel Altschul and Joyce Armstrong and my novel workshop group (Anny, Jill and Ben) who read all of the versions and offered invaluable feedback and encouragement. They all helped me to become a better writer. I look at them as sort of my ad hoc MFA program.

When I finished American Jukebox again this spring, I knew it was truly finished. It was as good as I could make it. I’m proud of the work and in my heart I believe it “deserves” to be published. But that’s not my call. I’ve queried one hundred literary agents and also submitted the manuscript to a dozen small independent presses. Agents are overwhelmed with submissions and it’s hard to get noticed. Two agents asked to see my manuscript based on my query letter and one publisher who had looked at the earlier version agreed to reconsider the newest version. But it’s been weeks and I’ve haven’t heard from them and that’s usually a pretty good sign they are not interested.

I had planned to self-publish, but I’ve changed my mind. There are a lot of good self-published novels out there (also a lot of not-so-good ones). With Amazon and other programs I could have American Jukebox on the market in a couple of weeks. I like selling and if a publisher had bought my book I would have sold the hell out of it. It would have been fun. But without a seal of approval, I just don’t have the confidence to trump the decisions of the gatekeepers. Hawking my self-published book would take all my time and I need to get back to writing again. Something new. Something better.

It’s not a total loss. I have had four of my chapters published as short stories and one of them one won an Honorable Mention in a writing contest last year. And next month the prologue and opening chapter will be published as a novel excerpt in another online literary magazine (maybe it will be discovered).

I plan to have a couple dozen copies of American Jukebox printed. I want to have one on my shelf to show my grandkids someday. Also I figure it will make a great Christmas gift for all those family friends who read all the earlier versions.

5 comments:

lucinda said...

Hey Len:

Look you finished it. And vetted it with lots of folk on the way. That's an incredible accomplishment.

Love your acceptance and that you're now moving on.

Moving on is hard to do. I've been harboring a memoir for over 12 years. It ain't done yet. I'm still learning how to write it.
Lucinda

bzobell said...

So frustrating, Len. Believe me, been there done that. I'll have more to say in LONG STUFF.

You are an incredibly talented writer. It might be a good idea to move on for now, but you never know what will happen next and someone might snap that novel right up.

bee

anny said...

Lenster:

I've been told it's always good to have a few projects in the works, and that often it is the 2nd or 3rd novel that sells due to the practice makes better theory--I don't believe in perfect.

That being said, several lit agents/editors that I've heard about have turn around times of 3-6 months, so until u get a form letter, u never know.

The Empress

Samantha Hoffman said...

Len, before my book was picked up by a major publisher it was self-published. You never know what will happen if it's out there. I used Lulu.com - it costs nothing (unless you need them to design a cover and format the text, and then it's very reasonable), you only pay for books you buy. And it will be on Amazon.
Just a thought.

Shaylen Maxwell said...

Found your blog via Hark! Exactly how I was feeling about my novel. And why I didn't end up going the self publishing route. And yes, a few print copies for the grandkids sounds amazing. : ) Following you.