An author’s relationship with her editor and agent is a rare and wonderful thing if it’s good, and a nightmare if it isn’t. I’m extremely lucky to have the kind of editor and agent that writers dream of. Which is another way of saying that I’m now rewriting an entire manuscript. Not because they have asked me to, but because they both found the first one depressing.
They were gentle, and they were diplomatic, but the word “sordid” came up in both conversations. I was shocked. Not too diplomatically, I told them I thought they might both be too isolated from the real world. I told them the story I’d written was something people all over the country were dealing with every day, and that I didn’t write Disneyland stories. They said they didn’t want me to write fluff, but they still found the story depressing.
I spent a few sleepless nights thinking about it because I respected the editor and agent enough to know they were solely concerned about my writing career, not whether or not they liked a story I’d written. And then I faced up to what I should have known all along. I mean, I am a psychologist, for Pete’s sake, and it doesn’t take a shrink to know there’s a word for a writer who writes depressing stuff and doesn’t even know it’s depressing. The word is depressed. Which made me acknowledge that I felt a lot sadder about the death of a relationship than I’d thought I did. I’d thought I was over the sadness, but obviously I wasn’t if it had crept into my writing.
So I went to see a shrink. A smart woman who heard my story and said, “You’re not sad, you’re furious, and the person you’re maddest at is yourself. Because you knew better, and you fell for it anyway.” I won’t bore you with what I fell for, but the shrink was right, I had fallen for it hook, line and sinker, and I’d been humiliated that I’d been so dumb.
Just being able to talk non-stop for an hour to an objective stranger was all I needed to get over the doldrums I’d been drifting in, and get a new surge of energy. And when I thought of the story I’d written, I thought, “What was I thinking?” Of course it was depressing!
So I’m now writing an entirely new story, from scratch. No rewriting of the old one, no recycling of old characters. It’s all new, and since my heart is lighter, the story is lighter. I went back to the shrink and told her I had three months to write a story that ordinarily takes 6 months.
She said, “You know you can do it, don’t you?”
When I said I did, she said, “Then just shut up and do it.”
I think she must be made of the same stuff as my editor and agent.
I’m lucky to have her, too.