Photo credit: Patty Keys
The next novel I wrote was called The Bridge.
It was also a middle-grade novel, meaning its target readership was nine- to twelve-year-olds, and it featured the same cast of characters from my first novel, Walking Distance, including the main protagonist and her antagonistic older brother.
For The Bridge, I took to heart all the advice Jennie, the literary agent, had given me for Walking Distance: keep the writing tight and relevant, and avoid ambiguous resolutions.
As for her advice to keep the length of MG novels to about 150 pages, I didn’t know what to do about that. As far I was concerned, a story should be as long as it takes to be told.
But I figured if I took her first two pieces of advice, chances were the third would fall into place of its own accord.
Like Walking Distance, The Bridge drew heavily on my life as a stay-at-home, homeschooling dad of two, as well as on that of my family.
The title referred to an aging, one-lane bridge near our home that underwent a yearlong renovation. In the story, the rebuilding of the bridge was sabotaged, so that when the new travel surface was laid atop the decking, it collapsed onto the railroad tracks below, gravely injuring one of the construction workers.
Of course, my main character, Rachel, not only figured out how the bridge was sabotaged, with help from a lost dog, but she also revealed the identity of the saboteur after a tense scene involving a thunderstorm and a thundering train.
The novel also featured sibling rivalry, paranormal activity, a death curse, Rachel’s budding awareness of womanhood, and algebra.
I loved The Bridge. It was both mystery and metaphor. It had everything I liked in a book, and it seemed to have everything Jennie wanted. It was also sixty pages shorter than my previous novel.
I couldn’t wait to submit it to her!
Which I did in late January of 2008.
Then I waited.
February went by. Then March. Then April.
Had I been the defendant in a court-room drama, and Jennie the jury, I would’ve been steeling myself for a death sentence. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t.
Because I’m a pretty optimistic guy.
Then June went by.
Finally, in late July, Jennie finished reading The Bridge and emailed me her feedback.
This is what she said.
To be continued . . .