Many, many times.
It started out as an adult novel-- a sort of women’s fiction with a mystery element. The main character, Angie Favorite, was in her mid-thirties and had a father who’d disappeared when she was a child. Events in the book give clues as to what had happened to him. There was a crazy cast of characters, including her ex-husband--a rock guitarist named Elroy, her smart teenage son, Jason, and her brother Bob and his selfish wife, Carla. After I finished writing and revising it, I had several writer friends review it and make notes, then I made some changes and polished it up.
I got an agent for the book. He was new to the agenting game, but enthusiastic about the book. Under his guidance, I did two rounds of revisions. The manuscript was submitted to twenty -some editors with the title Finding Angie. Two of them liked it well enough to take it to their editorial committee, where it was promptly shot down by the marketing people. Shortly thereafter, that agent wound up taking a different job dealing with foreign rights, so we amicably parted ways.
I sent the book out on my own, but there were no takers. One editor sent me extensive notes suggesting ways to improve the story, but her ideas would have required a lot of work. By that time I was tired of the book, so I just moved on.
A few years later, I got the idea to rewrite it as a young adult novel. This required making Angie a teenager. Her ex-husband became her father, her mother became her grandmother, and her son, her brother. The missing parent was now her mother. I made other changes as well. I dug out the letter from the editor who’d given me detailed notes. She’d disliked the ambiguous ending, (which I’d thought was true to life), so I scrapped it and completely rewrote it. Following her advice, I deleted numerous clever metaphors because although they delighted me, they were distracting and unnecessary. I also eliminated the Bob and Carla subplot, because really, who cared?
I queried agents for this new YA version and one called me with interest. We talked and she said she wanted changes. Her assistant sent notes with terrific suggestions for improvement, and I wrote my heart out for three weeks. I sent the manuscript back and heard nothing for weeks. Finally, she sent back a terse email saying it wasn’t for her, but thanks anyway. I was disappointed and puzzled. About a month later, she left her agency and started her own. I like to think that maybe she was caught up in the process of starting a new business and didn’t have time, but I’ll never really know.
I started to think it was just a weird book.
Another writer friend read it and she pointed out some incidences where I’d done more telling than showing. I fixed this problem and added 4000 words in the process.
In November 2009, on the advice of my mom who said it was her favorite of all of my books, I self-published the manuscript to be available as an e-book on Kindle. I found a great image on istockphoto.com and gave it the title, Favorite. Based on sales and reviews, it was acquired by Amazon’s publishing division, AmazonEncore, last year and rereleased on April 1st. Going with a publishing house required two rounds of editing, but this time around it was fairly painless.
I can’t wait to send a copy to the editor who was so helpful so many years ago. She may not even remember me or my manuscript, but I want to let her know that her efforts to help a new writer made a difference.
I’m happy Favorite found a publishing home with AmazonEncore, but I’m even happier that it’s now out of my hands and I can’t make any more changes.