On Writing: Editing a Novel

January 25th

new hair

The Case of the Missing Ponytail

It took me three years to complete a rough draft of my first novel, much of which I wrote under duress during a wicked breakup. Hot off the press, I sent the first copy to my father. {My dad has always been my writing inspiration, my biggest literary cheerleader. While I love my mom, to this day she hasn’t read the book. “I read a couple pages and keep falling asleep!” Unless I’m planning on marketing this to insomniacs, let’s hope for better reviews.}
I’ve since sent it to many other friends and it was resoundingly decided that the ending “sucked.” And there was a character no one understood. And what about that one guy in the hospital and where did he end up going?
There were holes in the plot and in this fragile time of life I wasn’t ready for criticism. My skin was thin and I just wanted everyone to tell me how I was a literary genius at the ripe age of 25! No dice.
Like everything else in life, success in writing was going to come from heaps of work and dedication. I re-read the story, made a few minor changes — insisting my ending was realistic and perfect! — and sent it off to agents far and wide. The rejection letters promptly started arriving and I cried. Oh, how I cried.
Then I found an agent who was willing to read it. Better yet, he wanted to talk about it. Bob talked for hours — two hours actually. I listened, taking detailed notes for the first hour. I cleaned the house during the second. He hated the ending too, but he loved the characters. We’d never met, he hadn’t read my blog, he didn’t know my story. Yet, as he spoke, I felt like he truly understood my vision. He knew me because he knew my art and that was a powerful feeling I’d never before experienced. It made me more optimistic and hopeful than I’d been in a long time. With a list of edits, and a much better ending, he said this could be published.
Six months later, I pulled out those notes and began the tedious process of changing significant characters and part of the plot. I am about a quarter of the way finished and I find this work exhausting in the best sense. It pushes me creatively and I look forward to the hour here and there I can grab to write, edit and read. That said, holy moly do I wish this book was ready for print. I really want to start writing the next story. I’m doubly motivated because it dawned on me this week — what if I’ve let so much time pass Bob no longer wants to help? Then what?
Oprah, now is the time to delurk.

~K

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32 Responses

  1. Oh my gosh, you have an agent! That’s awesome; you are going to be a published novelist and it will be amazing and I will buy your book and if I like it I will give it to all my friends for Christmas, and I’m sure I’m going to love it!! Wow, I hope your sentences aren’t as run-on-ing as mine..

  2. In no particular order:

    I love the new hair. Without trying to sound like a creepy old guy, that hairstyle is really attractive on you.

    I am always impressed by people secure enough in their own self-image to expose themselves to outside criticism by publishing the result of their particular creative urges. Congratulations to you for continuing the battle. I look forward to having your first published novel in my possession, signed of course.

  3. Cute hair, cute glasses, and will I be able to buy an AUTOGRAPHED copy? Will you still read my blog after you are famous?

    BTW, e-mail me. I need an addy to send your lil’ surprise to.

  4. OH! I think you should write a non-fiction about your trips to Africa.

  5. First of all, your hair looks fabulous! And congratulations having an agent interested in your novel. As for being rejected, just remember that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team!

  6. ..you’ve got seriously cute hair to go along with your fabulous literary news. Yay you!!!

  7. congratulations!!! you are seriously all kinds of inspirational, and i look forward to buying my copy.

  8. I have to tell you that you are quickly turning into a role model for me. I am currently going through a major break-up, and when I think of what kind of single girl I want to be, you come to mind. Reading this post and realizing that your novel came out of such a time is especially inspiring. Thanks for sharing your happy life with us!

  9. Once last year I was casually reading Real Simple magazine, when I noticed your name on a comment you had written to the magazine. That was such a thrill for me. Does this mean that one day in the near future I will be browsing Barnes and Noble or surfing on Amazon.com and I see your name on a book? Oh, I can’t wait.

  10. Love the hair cut! By the way, if Bob isn’t there when you are ready, somebody equally dedicated will be!

  11. At the risk of sounding hopelessly trite, to everything there is a time, and a season to every purpose under heaven. My father is a writer and has battled depression over his “lack of success” for years. [Lack of success equating to freelance articles being published, an ongoing column in a national magazine, and a self-published book that has been picked up for distribution by a national catalog resource company. His book is even for sale on amazon.com! Um, sounds successful to me.] Anyhoo, he is now in his 60s and still creating. And the lives he’s touched by his work are many, including his own.

    Oh, and very cute hair. You look like you have the kind of thick, body-full hair I’ve always wanted. Lucky you. 🙂

    One last thing – if you ever want some plain-jane feedback, let me know. I love to read, and have read many different authors and styles, and love to talk about books. And I give good feedback, apparently. Um, yeah, not the same as an editor or agent, but…I’m just sayin’…

  12. Let’s see….you run, bike, swim, cook, sew, knit, write, do good around the world and have a super cute haircut. You do amaze me. 🙂

  13. i swear chica! you never ever cease to amaze and inspire me! way to go!!!

  14. But think how proud you’ll be when it is done and published. I can’t wait to see you post the Amazon link, and a photo of your book on the shelf at the bookstore. How cool is that going to be?

  15. Kelli,
    I echo Christy’s comments! You simply amaze me with all that you do and accomplish. I LOVE your hair and glasses and am really happy to hear that the editing process is getting closer to completion and I, too, will be asking for that autographed copy of your first novel! I also agree with the others that said you should write a non-fiction book about your public health travels and experiences. It would also be a best-seller. 🙂

  16. I can’t wait to read your novel- crack on girl!

  17. I didn’t know you have an agent alreay! Go girl, we ‘re all waiting for the book to be on the shelf!

  18. Love the hair! and i agree with my dad, i think it’s amazing that you’ve completed the steps you have toward getting your book published and that you’re still moving forward. Many aspiring writers fail at just finishing the first draft, a herculean task, and a great percentage after that can’t handle the criticism it takes to make it publishable. the fact that you’ve weathered all of this and still have determination is in itself a huge success. i know i’ll see your novel at changing hands some day! 🙂

  19. One of these days I’m gonna say I knew you when….
    from blogging. My claim to fame. lol

    Anyway, I don’t know if you are into this, but I’ve passed on an award to you.

  20. I can’t wait until your book is published!
    And on an unrelated note, I love your hair!

  21. I can’t believe that he would take so much time to give you detailed editing suggestions and now couldn’t be bothered with you. No, I think he will be pleased pleased pleased to help someone willing to take constructive criticism and actually apply it. GOOD FOR YOU! This is very exciting! (And I like the sassy new do, by the way.)

  22. Hang in there! You’ll get it done, and it will be SO worth it. I can’t wait to buy a copy and say “I know her.” Love the hair too!

  23. I have written a book before, my dissertation, and I know how hard it is. I know it is way harder to get to write a book good enough to attract a real publisher and to then publish it. It is great that you are doing that while doing so many other interesting things in your life, it is exceptional that you are pushing your creative side and I once again admire you for that and feel inspired to create as well.

  24. Absolutley love the new hair and this picture of you.
    And I echo everything that has been said about your book. I have every confidence that this is going to happen for you!!

  25. Just keep writing! Write like the wind, Bullseye!

  26. Your new haircut is fabulous! Okay, you’ve not quite resolved the missing ponytail for us yet–did you donate it? My son’s girlfriend is growing her hair long just for that purpose. I’d consider it except I suspect I’m too old and who wants gray hair?

    What a wonderful opportunity you have with your book, Kelli. Editing and the re-write process is excruciatingly painful but it is an act of love for something that will carry your name.

  27. Writing is HARD work! Keep going at it! I agree that you need to write about your trips to Africa too! 🙂

  28. Its a real discipline to sit down and write like that. I know I’ve had one rumbling around written for a while and haven’t gotten back to it. I love your hair like that by the way. I kind of wish I could cut my hair like that a chin length.

  29. Esse corte de cabelo fica-te muito bem, cara.

  30. All the best with the book! I’m sure you’ll finish it and Bob will be ready for it. I look forward to ordering it on Amazon someday!

  31. Awesome news…. and super cute haircut!!!
    I can’t wait to read your first book!

  32. such great news about the agent and the new direction with your work. i hope that you work your way through it and we get to read it someday soon.

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