I write novels. I've written quite a few, and some of them over and over again.
Last year I thought it was time for all my writing and revising to pay off, and I sent a lot of carefully written and targeted query letters to agents. I received just enough interested responses to know that my confidence wasn't completely unrealistic. Eventually I also got enough feedback, from both professionals and critique partners, to decide that my manuscript still wasn't ready.
I'd written four drafts of that novel (or maybe six or seven, depending on what you count) and made substantial changes to the plot and characters. The current version of THE OVERWORLD has many strengths, and it reflects the improvements in my writing skills that resulted from working on this novel for years. There are also so many big problems with the manuscript that I had to put it aside for a while.
Another first draft that I'd written a couple of years earlier had been on my mind, and I turned my attention to revising that novel, keeping in mind everything I learned during OVERWORLD rewrites. I've now completed the second draft of THE EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE, and I'm making plans for the third. The new version is a fairly different story than the original, and I like it a lot better. I also like it better than THE OVERWORLD, and that's a hard realization after all the effort and expectations I put into that book.
At meetings of the South Bay Writers, several speakers have chronicled how many seemingly promising novels they went through before getting published. It gives me hope when I hear stories like Erika Mailman's that go, "Again I reached that point I had with the [last] book, where I thought, 'Okay, maybe this isn't my book either.' So I started writing a third book."
I'd like to believe that THE EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE is my book, the one that will turn all this work into a career. But I've thought that before. And that's how I know I'm on exactly the right path.