Last month I had the incredible good fortune of being invited to the inaugural Rowland Writers Retreat in Aurora, NY. For ten glorious days, I holed up in the luxurious and cosy Rowland House (top left) for an intensive week of work on my new novel. The residency was fully funded, and all meals were provided, meaning I got to focus exclusively on my new project, in sisterhood with a small group of other women writers. It. Was. Heaven. The food was off-the-chain (I actually put on four pounds, I really went for it), we were treated like queens, and I felt so incredibly grateful to be connected to these talented authors.
My mission for the week was an intense one. Remember how last newsletter I told you I'd sold my new novel to Simon & Schuster? After we sold it, off a 25,000 word partial, I had meetings with agent, Allison, and editor, Emily, for feedback on what I had so far. They both agreed the story was reading as a little "spiky", and needed more heart and joy. I came to agree that my original intention with the tone wasn't working, and decided to reimagine the story as five interconnecting love stories that flow around the central premise of a pair of mismatched wedding planners, with the love stories being about the planners themselves, and the vendors who work the weddings. At the residency, I sketched out each love story and braided them together around five weddings that the company works on (bottom left), and started drafting anew. I "recast" one of the two main characters, changing her name from Jude to Liv, to better help me know her as someone less prickly than her first incarnation.
What was it like throwing out 25,000 words that'd taken me a year to write, polish and sell? Not great. I know that this is part of the process, and it's really not as if those words were wasted, but it is hard to decide to start again on something, which basically means more work. But I have faith in my agents and editor's opinions, and I do think this book is going to be better for it. We still don't have a name: stay tuned on that. My aim is to complete a first draft by Falls and to submit in-house to Emily by January 2020. I have about 30,000 of the new draft so far, since starting at the residency. Onwards!