Saturday, January 15, 2011

Writing a Sequel to The Place of Dreams

I officially signed Hafan Deg with the lovely agent on January 3. When I refer to her, I have difficulty saying 'my' agent, as it sounds pretentious. So I say, 'the lovely agent I signed with', which is less in your face. As I become more confident, I'll feel less selfconscious using the 'my'.

Her first official suggestion was to change the name of the manuscript. It's now called The Place of Dreams, which you've probably seen in the sidebar. The second biggie is that she asked if I would consider a sequel to the book. In all my dealings with agents, hinting gently that I have other manuscripts I want to sell, I've never thought about sequels for any of them.

My first reaction was that it couldn't be done. The book had been rather exhausting, taking a long time to get it the way I wanted it. It's something of a saga,  and it took many re-writes to bring the major raison d'etre to a satisfactory conclusion, all the loose ends tied up, and everyone more or less living happily ever after. But I haven't stopped thinking about it since the idea was presented to me--how my protagonist, Karen, could pick up from where we left off.  I now think it could work. I'm two-thirds through the fourth novel, at a tricky forensic pathology (Google is brimming with information on that!) bit in the book, but Karen is now popping into my head constantly and I've even started making some notes.

If my (did it!) agent suggested a sequel, it surely indicates that she believes Karen is too interesting to abandon to one book--that people will be so involved they will want more. Considering how long it took me to get her this far, it's all rather surprising, but very rewarding. As I become more comfortable in this role of agented writer, I'll ask more questions, as there is still much that I don't know, but right now I'm humbled by it all, and will probably remain that way until an editor is found, or until my agent tells me to relax and enjoy the ride.

I think I'm a fairly good writer, certainly do the best I can manage, but it's hard to be too confident in this business, isn't it? How awful to brag about it all, only to fall on your face when a publisher isn't forthcoming. I appreciate a certain amount of irritable rumbling from some of you, 'She's working on her fourth novel?'  But I'll keep on writing, whatever happens. There could be ten novels, who knows? Not one of them published. We don't write to publish, but do have a need to share our ideas, our view of the world, and publication is the only way to do that on a scale larger than this blog.

I suppose what I'm saying is that you should never stop writing just because you have other manuscripts tucked away that have generated little interest. Ten novels, even twenty, doesn't preclude the publication of your very next one, and with luck all those others will then be picked up, too. Except for British writer, R.J. Ellory (he writes who-dunnits exclusively set in the U.S., and does it well, even as he lives in Birmingham, England!), who confesses he has over twenty manuscripts in his attic that never sold, that will remain there. He has since published many subsequent novels, and it frustrates me that he hasn't felt the need to look at the first twenty again, but perhaps, after all this time of honing his craft, he is honest enough to acknowledge that they just weren't good enough, and not worth resurrecting.

Over twenty novels discarded--now that's what I call a true apprenticeship. Good luck with yours. Perhaps you're about to receive your Certificate of Completion in the form of a contract. Not that it will guarantee anything, but you can have it framed, and show it off to your friends. I now have three! I'm hoping the last one holds true to its historical association with good fortune.

Until next time, stay safe, and get back to work.