Agent Request: Surviving Another Edit

I seem to be suffering inexplicable insomnia of late. I could blame it on the stress of trying to find that last little bit of something needed to push my novel over the top, but I doubt that’s it, or all of it anyway.

I was due to get back to a particular agent at the end of January if I hadn’t placed my novel to see if she had time and interest in looking at it. Well, I certainly hadn’t placed it because I stopped trying and started a new edit after receiving feedback from an editor and that edit wasn’t going well. I knew in a broad sense what needed to happen, I just couldn’t quite figure out how to translate the knowledge onto my written pages. By the end of the day on January 27th, I was still only 6 chapters into an edit attempt that finally seemed to be working. Fabulous! Only 33 chapters to go.

I couldn’t possibly delay getting back to the agent. That’s a poor way to deal with someone I hoped to build a lasting relationship with, but the manuscript wasn’t ready to go if she wanted it. Being an optimist, I sent her a note to let her know that I had begun another edit based on some helpful feedback and could have it done no later than the end of the following week (because doing a complex edit on 33 chapters in a week should be no problem, especially if I edited over the weekend).

The response came back that she was catching up on many things and would get back to me sometime in the next week. Excellent! A busy agent certainly wouldn’t get back to me before the end of the following week, by which time I would at least be mostly done with the edit (33 chapters, 1 week, no problem).

With plenty of distraction (mostly trying to work out finances to see if we could afford to replace my husband’s car with its rapidly reducing reliability) and already deeply in the throes of an insomnia induced struggle with productivity, I got through one more chapter in the next three days. Now I faced the prospect of 32 chapters in 5 days (yeah, I can do that, maybe).

Then it happened. Early Monday morning, January 31st, I got the response I didn’t expect until much later in the week. That wonderful agent got back to me. While my husband had been chauffeuring my barely coherent, sleep-deprived body around in his new car, she had been working through the weekend to catch up. Now she wanted the manuscript and the sooner I could get it to her, the better.

Glorious news! Excitement bubbled through me… and crashed violently into a wave of suffocating dread. I opened the manuscript file on my computer and stared forlornly at the 32 chapters still in need of the latest touchup treatment. The answer was clear. I could do nothing except edit until the manuscript was done. Laundry, dishes, stall cleaning, house cleaning, cooking, taking down the everlasting Christmas tree, it all had to wait.

Fortunately, for all of us, my husband stepped in to pick up some of the slack and see that the essentials happened and no one starved. I, still suffering variable insomnia, started editing from early morning until after dark every day, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at my computer many of those days.

The critters also stepped in to help. My young cat, Neko, maintained his usual care procedures, interrupting me at regular intervals to insist that I scratch the kitty back, thereby ensuring some movement in my stiffening arms. He also took an opportunity to try to catch my beta, just to keep me conscious of the real world. Shai, our grumpy old female cat, kept reality quite starkly real by selflessly peeing on several pairs of my shoes.

The horses, determined to get me out for a little sunshine, made it absolutely clear that the last bale of hay I hoped to stretch out for a few more days proved unpalatable and they would be on starvation strike until I remedied the situation. A trip to the feed store became inevitable.

The true champion in this marathon editing had to be my 14-year-old ailing dog, Akila. Despite monumental efforts, the editing continued into the following weekend and Saturday, February 5th, I spent the day finishing off the last six chapters and preparing it to be mailed first thing Monday morning. In the midst of that process, while I floated on a rather rare and wondrous editing high, the sound of retching behind my chair hammered me harshly back to reality. Poor Akila heaved his stomach contents, in all their pungent glory, on the floor behind me. After the splendid disgorging, he curled in a shuddering, miserable ball in the bedroom and I suffered from the gut-wrenching certainty that he would die while I finished the novel.

Monday, February 7th. My darling husband mailed the manuscript this morning on his way to work. Though mailed later than I would have liked, it is better than ever and another 3,000 words shorter. Akila lives, having rallied after a few days of staggering dramatically close to deaths door, a door his sanity has long since passed through. The horses are enjoying their new batch of hay. My beta hasn’t become an afternoon snack for Neko, yet, and I haven’t smothered Shai with a pillow, yet. Christmas is down and I am ready to catch up on household chores before I start a second edit on my new steampunk novel.

I’ve knocked on wood and crossed my fingers, but if anything makes this agent want to represent the book, I’m confident that it will be the effort put into making it shine (thanks to the extraordinary man who allowed me to pour every minute into it over the last week). Perhaps now I can spend a little effort learning how to sleep again.

Oh, and just so he doesn’t feel left out, throughout this process my old male cat, Thomas, remained his sweet and saintly undemanding self. Thanks Tom.