It’s not that long ago I was feeling glum about ever getting another book published. Look at me, here, in the past, all glum. Now I have two books coming out at the same time. It’s pretty hard to feel glum about that (though knowing me I might try). There’s The Handbook, out in a couple of weeks. And now my manuscript has won Seizure’s Viva la Novella prize and turned into an actual book called Formaldehyde (which, coincidentally, is a book about hands: a hand book, if you like).
First, thank you so much to Seizure (particularly publisher David Henley) and to editor Marisa Wikramanayake for choosing my manuscript and for putting in so much effort to make it the gorgeous little thing it is today (seriously, it’s worth getting a copy of Formaldehyde or one of the other winners – The end of seeing by Christy Collins and Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward – just so you can touch the delicious, waxy covers Seizure came up with).
If you wanted to do a case study of the long, hard road a manuscript can take, Formaldehyde might not be a bad choice. I wrote the first draft in November 2000, my first attempt at Nanowrimo (then in its second year). On November 30 it was 50,000 words long and I thought it was bloody brilliant, so I sent it to an agent. It wasn’t, so they rejected it. I rewrote it a bit and sent it to a few more agents. They rejected it. I turned it into a 70,000-word novel. Several more agents and publishers rejected it. I rewrote it and sent it out some more so it could get rejected. By 2014 it had accrued 15 rejections.
Last year Rose Michael, who is a fine person, a great editor and the author of mysterious puzzle-novel The asking game, helped me rewrite it again, this time as a novella. Her excellent suggestions really sharpened the story. But I was also surprised how much, in the intervening 15 years, my view of the characters and what they would do had changed. Giant chunks of the plot needed to be totally rewritten, mainly because I am now a far less romantic person than I was at the turn of the century.
Anyway, the point is that I am so, so delighted it is finally a thing people can read, and a thing I am proud to have them read. Sometimes it’s worth the wait.
(If you’d like to hear Marisa and I burble on about writing, editing and a bunch of other stuff, here’s a podcast from Australian Women Writers.)