Rewriting last year’s goal

“There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree on what they are.”

— Somerset Maugham


One of my 2019 New Year’s goals  was to complete the novel I’d been writing for the past few years. It was a challenging project, my first full length story for an adult audience. (My novels have been Y/A prior to this one.)

Success! I completed the novel in late spring, passed it on to my amazing  ‘first readers’ and made some of the suggested changes. From there I began researching how to acquire a literary agent. (I hadn’t needed one with my Y/A and children’s books.) It’s an interesting process, trying to present a very short overview of your story in a way that will grab the attention of someone who doesn’t know you or your past work. This snippet has to make them want to read more. I was excited when I received a number of offers to read the entire manuscript.

Bad news: I haven’t yet found a literary agent who wants to represent this book but I did receive some really generous feedback. The agents said things like, “What an important topic!”, and “You are clearly a talented writer.” One kind agent said “I thought you handled the material beautifully, with great sensitivity and compassion for all your characters – even the flawed ones.” But no one (yet) has offered me representation. They did each remind me that publishing is a subjective business and it’s very possible that another agent could feel differently.

I could continue my search for that agent, the one who ‘feels differently’, but a couple of comments  made me pause and rethink the story. One comment I heard a few times, written in different ways, was “I didn’t fall in love.” Hmm.

One agent took the time to outline how she thought I could make it an even stronger story. I’ve thought about her suggestions, realize they have a lot of merit, so I’ve decided to put my search for an agent on hold and rewrite the  story with her thoughts in mind. It was a struggle to come to this decision. Perhaps another agent would love it just the way it was and I could move on. In fact, I have another novel in mind that I’m longing to begin, but I’ve decided that it will have to wait.

So, 2020 begins not with a new goal, a new project as I’d hoped but with a reworking of an old one. And that’s okay too. Once I began the rewrite I realized how liberating it is. We can’t rewrite our own lives, but writers can rewrite their fictional ones, even when we thought they were finished. We can add tension, new plot threads, twists, even new characters! We can polish our words and sentences until they sparkle (and make an agent fall in love.)

Although I could wish you the traditional ‘happy’ new year’, more importantly, I wish you a ‘satisfying’ one. ‘Happy’ moments are fleeting, but the satisfaction of making  and realizing goals  is a far greater reward. So, may your your New Year unfold rich in meaning, creative challenge, loving connections and a whole lot of achievable goals.


6 thoughts on “Rewriting last year’s goal

  1. Kim Denman

    Love your thoughts here, Shelley, and I applaud your hard work and determination in tackling this rewrite. So very true that as writers, we have the option to rewrite our fiction and as challenging as that can be, your decision to view it as liberating is a marvellous attitude!

  2. Darlene Foster

    I wish you a satisfying year as well, Shelley! Rewriting a story can be very satisfying. I applaud you for diversifying and writing for a different audience. All the best.

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