Back up to 848 ms pages. Manuscript goes in the mail to my agent first thing tomorrow. Or today, rather.
Okay, I've taken the memoir about as far down as I can go now, from 947 pages to 833. That a little more than 12% shrinkage, or almost an eighth of the book. Wow! I've also gone from 47 chapters to 41.
Now I have just one more chapter to writethe money shot, "Words and Phrases You Must Never Use in Airports"before I'm at a place where I can send the nearly damn complete manuscript to my agent for forwarding to HarperCollins. Tomorrow!
So my agent has an editor at HarperCollins interested in the memoir. Unfortunately, a different Harper editor has already rejected it, so the title has to change for this new submission. Therefore, the book henceforth is called Missionary Man, not The Accidental Terrorist. (It will also help, of course, that there's now almost twice as much book as there was on the previous submission. That will go far toward helping everyone involved pretend this is a fresh submission.)
In preparation for delivering the almost-complete manuscript, I've been eliminating some chapters that have given other editors pause, including the three chapters about my stint at the Clarion science-fiction writing workshop in the summer of 1985. I'm pleased to say that in the past week I've whittled the ms down from 947 to 855 pages, and I still have one more unnecessary chapter to purge. The tricky thing has been finding ways to interpolate condensations of some of the salient backstory from the material I've eliminated into the remaining narrative. But I'm just about done! With luck I'll have the ms in the mail to Shawna on Monday.
Anyway, that's why, when I resume the new-chapter postings, the chapter and page counts will have shrunk.
The long silence has ended. This is what the Interested Editor at the Major House had to say in response to my agent's gentle inquiry:
Sorry to be slow--I've been fighting in my corner here, and in the end I failed. The draft of the letter I was writing you follows--I'm very upset I couldn't do it, but there were just too many questions in people's minds. Anyhow, here's the letter, and I'll send the materials back today. Best for now, **:I feel sort of like Evel Knievel, having missed the far rim of the Grand Canyon by mere feet. I'll make it next time, dammit, but I need some time to mend.Dear ******:
Sorry to report that I won't be making an offer for THE ACCIDENTAL TERRORIST by William Shunn. As I told you, I've never come across a manuscript that caused as much consternationconsternation in a good way, mindthan this one. Most of the editorial group read most of it, and all agreed that it's very well written, very compelling, and not a little disturbing; Lord knows what's coming in part two. Mr. Shunn can really handle a tale, and his writing line-to-line is never less than impressive. Unfortunately, though, in the end we just couldn't work out how best to publish this bookthe sting in the tale is perhaps too sharp, especially as it does shine such a light back on the rest of the book. A Mormon coming of age story with a terroristic endingI just couldn't convince my colleagues how best to read a substantial readership with that as my hook. It may be that other editors see the opportunities more clearly, and I hope that's the case as the book is certainly not one I'll easily forget. If Mr. Shunn's work should come free in the future, I'd be very happy to reconsider ithe's a real writer, that much is for certain.
The material you submitted is enclosed, and thanks, as always, for thinking of me.
Have you ever experienced Chinese water torture? I haven't either, but it's probably much like waiting to hear from an editor who has expressed a hope of making an offer on your book.
I'm writing this book called The Accidental Terrorist. It's a memoir, reallythe first-person story of a loveable young Mormon dissident-to-be who unwillingly serves a mission for his church, only to have it lead him to a terrorist act when he starts taking the whole thing a little too seriously. It's a light-hearted book, really.
My agent submitted the (partial) manuscript to seven publishers last month. About two and a half weeks ago, she wrote to tell me that one of these esteemed editors had called her, and that he loved the book and hoped to be able to make an offer soon. I was stunned.
Then, about a week and a half ago, he called my agent again to tell her that he had a lot of support for the book at his house and was presenting to his editorial and publications boards the next week. He expected things to go well, though he was a little worried about the "dual" nature of the book (i.e., Mormon coming-of-age story melded with terrorism drama).