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Day 224: My Novel Will Be a Choice Cut of Meat!

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Special Announcement:  For those of you in the Boston area, or attending the AWP Conference next week, come to the (free) Burlesque Press AWP Kick-Off Reading onWednesday, March 6th at 8pm at Crossroads Pub (495 Beacon Street, near the conference hotel).  I will be reading, along with some other excellent Burlesque Press contributors.


I’ve been a busy little traveler lately, and my most recent journey was last week: driving from DC up to Cape Cod. I’m spending a few days here on the Cape until I head to Boston for the AWP Conference on March 6th.

Originally, my friend Nikki and I had planned to go to Salem while I was in Massachusetts, but for various reasons we decided to forgo the road trip and simply treat ourselves to a nice dinner with the money we would have spent on a hotel.

On Thursday we took a sunset walk around Provincetown, then went to dinner at The Mews. It was a lovely place overlooking the ocean, which was dark but dotted with the bright specks of lighthouses in the distance.

I scanned the menu and tried not to freak out. Nikki had warned me that this place was pricey. I told myself to remember that a $30 entree would still be cheaper than a hotel in Salem would have been. Still, I decided to do what I normally do at fancy restaurants: order a salad.

I had my pear and pecan salad all picked out, when the waiter came over and told us that on Thursdays entrees were two-for-one.

“Well that changes everything,” I said.

“We can still get the salad to share,” Nikki suggested, “but you should get an entree, too.”

And suddenly I was overwhelmed. Usually I don’t even let myself seriously consider any entree over $15, and these were all $30-plus. Should I get the lobster risotto? The lamb shanks? The roasted half duck? This was my chance to get whatever I wanted with no worry about the cost, but I didn’t know what I wanted and there were too many ways to go. What if I picked the wrong thing?

“I knew when I looked at the menu online that I was going to order the lobster dumplings,” Nikki said, snapping the menu closed with a satisfied smile.

“When you looked online at the menu, what did you know that I would order?” I asked.

Nikki laughed, but I was serious. I wished that she would tell me what to get.  I couldn’t make a decision on my own.

The waiter came, and in a moment of panic, I ordered the filet mignon.

*   *  *

Recently I’ve gotten some good feedback on my YA novel from a few agents. One agent, in particular, sent me a long and helpful email. He told me he really likes the idea and thought the beginning was very intriguing. But he had the same concern as some other agents that the book is straddling YA and middle grade and needs to move clearly in one direction or the other. Also, although he thinks the novel has potential, he said the pacing needs work, there are some plot issues in the middle of the story, and some of the characters’ relationships are confusing.

I agree with him.

I actually had these exact same concerns about the novel when I started sending it out, but I didn’t know how to fix them. I was hoping that an agent would fall in the love with the idea and the intriguing beginning and then tell me how to solve all the problems.

This is one of the reasons I want an agent: I love getting feedback, and I am perfectly happy to revise based on people’s (reasonable) suggestions. I was hoping I would get an agent who would have all the answers and tell me exactly what to do to make my novel better.

In the email, this agent told me, “I think you need an agent who can give the manuscript significant attention…Unfortunately, I know I don’t have the time currently to devote to it.”

Does that mean there are agents out there who would be willing to work with me? I don’t know, because I’ve queried a lot of agents by now. And although a lot of them have said that they would be willing to look at a second revision, none of them have offered to help me with it.

In fact, that is what this agent said. He said if I do a major revision, he’d be more than happy to read it again, as well as pass it along to some of his other agent friends.

So that’s good news, right?

Except that I’m totally on my own.


Not the actual filet mignon I ate. Mine was better than this one, I’m sure.

So let’s talk about the filet mignon. Oh. My. God. It was medium rare and so tender that each bite melted in my mouth. They were served with garlic mashed potatoes, a few slim green beans, and pan-roasted cherry tomatoes. And everything was smothered in a rich mushroom sauce. Each bite was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted.

“I think this is one of the best meals I’ve ever had,” I told Nikki.

“Really?” I could tell what she was thinking. Not that this little restaurant on the Cape wasn’t good, but I’d eaten at nicer restaurants in DC, New Orleans, New York City.  Surely I’d had a lot of fantastic meals.

“I think it’s because I ordered the filet mignon, and I’ve never ordered something like this before,” I said. “I always just order salads.”

I was so glad I’d been forced to break out of my normal ordering pattern and try something different.

*    *    *

I am going to try to revise my novel, of course. Maybe I need to try something different with the manuscript – break out of my normal writing patterns.

I wish I had someone to tell me what to do with the novel and how to fix it, because I’m overwhelmed by the options. There are so many different direction I could go with it, and I’m afraid to do the “wrong” thing.
So my plan is to put the novel away for awhile – six months maybe. Hopefully, when I return to the manuscript, I’ll have some ideas of how to make it better.

And I’ve been thinking…  Maybe I don’t have to worry about doing the “wrong” thing.  I bet I would have loved any of those entrees on The Mews menu: the lamb, or the lobster risotto, or the duck. Most likely, I couldn’t have gone wrong. I just had to pick something and go with it.

My manuscript is a boring salad right now. In six months, I’m going to make it filet mignon.


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

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