When I left you, dear readers, I’d just completed the re-write on Pretty Souls. This time, I decided I’d be smarter about things. I found a beta reader through Devon Monk’s livejournal. She was a stranger, not a friend who would just tell me what I wanted to hear. We swapped manuscripts and tore into each other. That fall, I polished the manuscript again, and started sending out more queries.
My first set garnered a partial request, and I sent out more before any rejections started rolling in. While in the midst of NaNoWriMo 2009, I received two more partial requests. Then, on December first, I got a request for the full manuscript, and I thought I’d finally nailed it (another partial request followed quickly on its heels).
NaNo that year had been a mess, so I set aside the novel in early December and started working on Partly Human, the sequel to Pretty Souls. I was going on my merry way with the new story when the rejections on the requested material started coming in. The fair winds that had filled my sails died, and words started becoming a daily battle. I forced myself to finish Partly Human, but my heart wasn’t in it.
Just before I finished that manuscript, I received the last of the rejections on Pretty Souls. I was heart-broken. It was the first time I really gave a thought to quitting. But, that assistant who had first requested pages? Over the year, we’d talked a lot, and she offered to look over the manuscript and give me feedback. It was what I needed. I wanted to learn and be better, but without knowing what I’d done wrong, I was lost.
Like Kelley had done with my first novel, Jodi didn’t pull any punches, she told me exactly how I’d messed up. The worst part was, I’d done exactly the same things in Partly Human. I didn’t have it in me to start yet another re-write on a story whose time may have passed anyway (agents weren’t really acquiring werewolf novels anymore).
As much as I loved those characters, I knew I needed to step back and do something else for a while. Luckily, over the holidays, I’d come up with this little tickle of an idea. I spent some time building it until I thought I had a workable plot.
I started the story around the beginning of February. A few chapters in, Jodi offered to take a look for me. And when she was done, she stopped me and asked me questions about conflict and motivation and what my heroine was doing to fix her situation. Her questions killed my forward momentum. But only because they made me go back and fix things from the beginning. Then I got moving again. I finished the draft in less than fifty days, and life got in the way more of those days than I care to count.
When I was done though, I knew it was better. I did my first round of edits and sent it off to a bunch of beta readers. No more of this two or three people nonsense. I think I had six beta readers for the novel that would eventually be known as The Devil You Know. My readers came through and tore it apart. But none of them, including Jodi, tore it down.
It was like the difference between demolishing a house and gutting the kitchen. All the readers liked the house; they just thought the kitchen needed serious renovations. So, I got back to work.
By the time I left for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention at the end of April, the book was ready to pitch to agents and editors. Anyone who really knows me knows I don’t do well face-to-face with people I don’t know though. So even though I left certain that my novel was ready for primetime, I still walked into the hotel terrified that it, and I, would bomb.