Don’t Abandon Your Dream, Part II– March 23, 2022, by Jude Hopkins
In another year or so, I exhumed my book proposal and thought it good enough to send to another New York agent.
It worked — again. Another agent signed me up. However, during the time I had let the project lie untouched, the market had changed. The demand for self-help books was no longer what it once was.
You had your chance, and you blew it. That’s all I could tell myself.
The book never left my thoughts, however. I still felt compelled to write it.
But in what form?
The market had tired of self-help, but what about a different iteration of the theme?
Eventually, I sat down at the computer and started typing out a novel about a woman who had spent a good portion of her adult life pursuing unavailable men. I tamped down the references from the novel I was using as exemplification and filled its pages instead with characters that I fashioned.
I wrote on my lunch hours, on a legal-size yellow pad, just aiming for a very rough first draft. I felt if I planned it out, I would spend more time outlining than doing, so I ploughed through, knowing I would be spending a lot of time revising.
I was unhappy in my job as a secretary in an L.A. record company’s legal department and teaching before and after my main job. Because of my jobs and their attendant duties, I had to suppress the urge to write. So I carried my draft with me to work every day, believing that the physical presence of it was the next best thing to working on it.
Soon my hectic schedule resulted in my becoming very ill, a fact that forced me to move back to Pennsylvania to be close to my family. During my recovery, I thought of the book. But that’s all I did, just think about it. Other priorities intervened: I had to get better, see innumerable doctors, find a job.
Somewhat later, I did get an offer to be an adjunct instructor in English composition at the local university, which consumed my time and sapped my energy. If I wasn’t grading papers, I was preparing lesson plans or meeting with students. I also worked part-time at the local newspaper.
I felt unfulfilled. I wanted to get back to the book. Little was done to the manuscript since my move back East, a good 10 years. Instead, I worked on shorter things: poems, personal essays.
` Finally, I decided to get some professional editorial advice as a way to jumpstart my return to the ragged draft of the novel. I found an editor online who offered a reasonable fee for a read-through and developmental editing, maybe too reasonable.
She “edited” the manuscript by changing the two spaces after each period to one. That was the bulk of her work.
Months later, discouraged by a stultified composition program at school, I tried again to bring my novel to life with another editor. This one was professional, expensive, and ultimately unsuitable. She offered extensive guidelines, suggestions, etc., but I quickly got lost in the layers of options and put the project away again.
Then I sent off the first chapter or so to a contest that judged the beginnings of books for possible agent interest. All but one of the so-called “judges” didn’t get my jaded narrator. Discouraged, I shelved it — again.
Several years later, I found an editor who seemed open to offbeat main characters. Plus, she offered a lower rate because she was just starting off as an editor. I sent it off. She offered some great suggestions.
Yet it wasn’t enough to get me to open up the computer file.