Things your mama don’t tell you: Novel update.

by Britt

It has been a busy year since completing The Pace of Nature manuscript last November, 2015. After a dozen and more submissions to agents, along with an editor pitch conference last December, I learned what it takes to publish a debut novel in the marketing world.

Lots of changes have been made to the story since writing the original manuscript. The first change, which I was in favor of, was to cut the novel into two books. In my eyes, my story was always a duology. So the first alteration in transforming my story for chance to fit in the publishing world was a cinch.

However, it wasn’t as easy as splitting the 742 page manuscript down the middle.

During the Algonkian Pitch Conference last December, I was set up with director and editor Michael Neff who helped re-direct me in the right direction as to where my novel fit on the shelf in terms of genre. At that time, because TPON manuscript was a 742 page story that charted the childhood of my character, Lilly from ages 7 – 16 – unless I tried to publish the story as a memoir/nonfiction – there was no genre/market for this type of manuscript.

I was faced with a problem. In the start of my fictional novel, Lilly is 7, which makes the novel, middle-grade. But then she grows to 16, which then makes the novel Young Adult.

Assigning a manuscript to one clear-cut genre is a must in order for editors to place a book on the bookstore shelves. Nowadays, there are thousands of aspiring novelists, which allows the editors to have their pick. They have no problem dismissing someone like me whose novel did not fit within the bounds of one genre.

In my eyes, The Pace of Nature is a story relatable to a vast audience of all ages and genders. Themes touch on alienation, courage, ambition, betrayal, discovery – matters in which everyone has experienced from one time or another.

When talking with Michael, it became clear what I needed to do to transform my manuscript into one appropriate genre. I must change the setting, along with Lilly’s age. No more 7-year-old Lilly set in her home town with her family. The novel will open with 16-year-old Lilly at Forge Academy, and will incorporate a handful of flashbacks to show how she got there. Finally, because the story and themes within are revealed through a 16-year -old girl’s perspective, TPON when published, will be classified as YA.

I went home that evening and re-wrote my pitch based on those changes. The following days, I pitched the novel to four editors. Three out of those four editors are interested in Forge, which meant I had a lot of work to do before presenting the complete manuscript to the three intrigued editors at their publishing houses.

Since last December, I have cut the manuscript in half, focusing on the first book: Forge, Book I of The Pace of Nature Series. I spent the next several months re-writing the beginning  of Forge, having to write a whole new ending to complete the novel, all while figuring out how to keep the integrity of the story I want to tell.

It was a long, pacing, hair pulling, lack of sleep process, but I am thrilled to say, I have finished the Forge manuscript. I am in love with it, and amazed that it has surpassed my wildest hopes in preserving the heart of the story that has always been my intent to tell.

I am weeks away from re-submitting.

And although, I feel I am a step closer to publishing my debut novel, I am not there yet. It can take years to publish a novel. It is highly frustrating and at times discouraging waiting for the response of an agent or editor to ultimately reject you and tell you the novel was just not for them. I pray that this time my manuscript will be picked up by an agent and editor who feels as passionate about my project as I do.

I am thankful for my family, my friends, my boss, and my clients – who may not have always understood my ambitions, but have stood in my corner with patience, faith, loyalty and support.

Forge would not be great without my editor, Garrett Detemple. Since the beginning of building the world in which Lilly lives, Garrett has been my second set of eyes, cutting the parts that clutter the story, helping me stay focused in keeping my vision alive, and all at the expense of his own writing time. A skilled editor is hard to find, but it is necessary. I quote Mark Twain because he says it best, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

I started the first draft of TPON back in 2010, where directly after, I went back to school to finish my undergrad degree. After that I got my MFA in writing. Since graduating in 2014, I have dedicated all free time to completing the manuscript. It’s now approaching 2017 and I am still going. I have put other goals on hold and at times neglect the things that should be held in higher priority. But there is a force driving me forward and everything inside of me pushes me towards the finish line. I have gained a lot. I am not giving up.

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Find pitch below: 

Forge

Lilly Difeo’s childhood is interrupted by a horrible moment of chance. From that moment on, there are real consequences for Lilly and her family, whose ability to hold themselves together is tested to the breaking point. Caught between an excruciating past and an unbearable present, Lilly is overwhelmed with hatred for all she has lost, finding herself on a downhill voyage towards violence and petty theft, balancing on an ever-thinning wire, with no safety net in sight.

Leaving her parents with no choice, sixteen-year-old Lilly is forced into a car and dropped off at Forge Academy, a boot-camp boarding school in the back woods of Connecticut, where she’s been saddled and forced to face her personal demons. Taken aback by Forge’s philosophy, which demands students rat out friends in the Arena of Shame in front of the entire school body, Lilly refuses to partake. As a result, Forge punishes her: Twenty-four hours of picking weeds, scrubbing toilets, and waking up for the 5:30 am workout each morning. Dean Davis makes it his personal agenda to break Lilly and turn her into one of his loyal minions, but Lilly will not budge.

Determined to get back home, Lilly breaks into an office to make a phone call to her family and soon realizes life has gone on without her. Her absence is not missed. Over the following weeks, Lilly focuses on transforming into the person her family needs her to be. With the help from her roommate, Shauna, and Meisha, a piano player who shows her that everyone is capable of finding a unique potential, Lilly begins the precipitous climb towards figuring herself out.

But after a school bust, far larger than all the others, in which a handful of seniors are held accountable for, Lilly is forced to choose between her friends, her sense of right and wrong, and a clear path home. And just when all hope seems lost, an unexpected run-in with the Dean and another student may hold the key to her salvation.

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© Brittany DiGiacomo 2016

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