I've been working on the "Jimmy and Cinder" manuscript, off and on, for about three years. I thought it was ready to send to an agent when I took it to the SCBWI winter conference in January 2009. I learned a great deal at that conference, the most important thing being that this manuscript wasn't ready.
My formal education is in Engineering, not English, or journalism or any other discipline where I might have to compose anything but a report. Worse still, I'm a Survey Engineer - I'm trained to crunch numbers. So, I always liked things in order. Logical sequence. Don't speak about things not previously defined.
So, the first thing I learned at SCBWI was that I started my story in the wrong place. Most people thought my story should have started about page 30 in my manuscript. Damn! But what about all the great details that were in the first 30 pages? I explained the setting, how the characters were related and so on. Nobody cares, I was told. It's called "back story".
Aha! Now I understood. So I rewrote "Jimmy and Cinder" over the next 18 months while I finished another story that is being published quite soon. I felt that this time I had it. I added some more story, I got rid of pages at the start and used them as some to this new fangled back story I had found out about. Again, I felt it was ready but....
I still couldn't send it to an agent yet. Something was nagging at me. Way down deep inside me I could feel something trying to get out. There was more story in there and it needed to be put on paper. However, I just couldn't pull it out. I didn't think I was putting off sending for fear of rejection. I just didn't feel that it was ready.
Then, yesterday I was reading an article in my favorite writing magazine, Writer's Digest. It was about great Chapter 1's. The feeble little light bulb over my head flicked on and I realized that I still wasn't starting in the right place. I reread the manuscript and realized that, although better than what I took to NYC, the story still started on page 15.
So, I'm starting again with 15 pages of great back story to work with and hopes that in this rewrite, the last bit of story will escape from my head and get on the paper where it belongs.