August 31st, 2010


Tim Gunn visits ... and so do Heidi, Michael, and Nina

Project Novel – Book on the Runway

Tim Gunn enters the workroom. “Good morning, everybody.”

“Just me, Tim,” says Lisa.

“Oh, of course! I beg your pardon. Authors today … not designers.” He smiles. “I’m a very busy consultant.”

Lisa smiles back.

“Well, the big day is finally here,” he says. “Your book is heading to the runway.”

“I know, I’m very excited.” Lisa tries to breathe evenly.

“Well, I’m excited to see what you’ve done with it since our last discussion.” Tim studies the novel, turning it from side to side. “So talk to me. How are you feeling? Any last minute concerns?”

Lisa starts to reach for the novel, then forces herself not to fuss with it. “I’m a little nervous. I really hope the judges like it. Do you think the length might be a problem?”

Tim rests a finger on his cheek, considering. “I see it’s just under 85,000 words. A few years ago, that would have been considered long, but nowadays it’s not unusual to find some real door stoppers in YA.” He examines the pacing. “It’s only too long if the reader gets bored.”

“I think my pacing is okay. There’s a lot of stuff going on … plenty of dialogue and action … no big chunks of exposition.”

Tim points to the hook. “I’m crazy about the concept. You really tapped into the zeitgeist of society’s obsession with wealth and fame.”

Lisa beams. “Thanks. I had a lot of fun writing it.”

Tim peers over his glasses at the main character. “Another teen boy. I’m relieved to see you were able to make his voice distinct from your previous teen boy narrator.”

“Well, he didn’t sound anything like Blake in my head.” Lisa blushes, aware that every time she talks about voices in her head, her sanity comes into question.

Tim spreads out the secondary characters. “You have a large, colorful cast … each one with his or her own character tags, so there’s no confusion about who’s who. Very nice work. I’m proud of you.”


Tim pauses, then says, “I feel it’s my responsibility to say this.”

Lisa stops breathing.

“You could have gone even deeper into the conflicts facing the father and son.”

Lisa tries not to panic. “I see what you mean.” She gazes down at the plot threads. “I resolved the larger issues, but I suppose I could have increased the drama here.” She points. “I was worried about going over-the-top.”

“Listen to your viscera,” says Tim. “Are you satisfied with that character arc?”

Lisa checks her viscera, then says, “Yes.”

“Good.” Tim lifts the narrative. “Solid construction … cohesive world-building … a plausible ending … this is a strong manuscript.”

“Thank you!”

“Good luck on the runway. I’ll meet you back here after the judges have made their decision.”

“Okay.” Lisa follows her super-agent/model, who has picked up the book and is heading for the runway. Lisa hurries to take her seat.

Heidi Klum enters the studio, displaying her customary unfair amount of hotness. “Hiieee.”

Lisa waves.

“One day you’re in, the next day … oh,” says Heidi. “Authors.”

Lisa looks around. She is the only author in the room.

“Let me introduce the judges,” says Heidi. “First up … the fabulous Michael Kors.”

“Hey, guys.”

Lisa squints in the direction of the voice, but can only see a bronze glow.

“And the lovely Nina Garcia.”

“Hello, everyone,” says Nina in her dulcet tones.

Lisa wonders again if she should point out that she’s the only author in attendance, but decides against it.

“Let’s start the show,” says Heidi.

Lisa’s super-agent/model strides onto the runway, novel in hand. She REPRESENTS. She is WORKING IT.

Lisa can’t see Michael’s face, and Nina maintains a neutral expression. After about a month (very quick in publishing time!), the judges reach a verdict.

“I don’t believe the voice.” The Michael Kors radiance sounds grumpy. “It doesn’t ring true.”

“I don’t care about him,” barks Heidi.

Nina parts her glossy lips to say, “I enjoyed reading this. It was an interesting idea.” She tilts her head and says in that deceptively gentle voice, “But it is all. Wrong.”

Lisa’s heart lands in her feet; she’s happy to be sitting down.

“I see too many problems. For example, I wish you had developed further the tension between father and son.”

“It is underdeveloped,” snaps Heidi.

Lisa opens her mouth to answer, but remains speechless.

“Look, you’re very talented,” says Michael. “If you decide to revise, we will be happy to look at it again. Or perhaps something new. But for this manuscript, the answer is no.”

“I’m sorry, that means you’re out,” says Heidi, rising to give Lisa the double-kiss-of-death. “Auf wieder —”

“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, HEIDI.” Lisa’s super-agent/model stalks onto the runway. She reaches down and gathers up Lisa’s manuscript. “My author is not OUT. I happen to love this book, and I plan to submit it elsewhere. Maybe – if Lisa decides to revise – maybe even to Project Novel again. Thank you for the feedback, we’ll take it under consideration.”

Lisa follows her super-agent/model back to the workroom. “I disagree with the judges,” says Jenn. “We’ll talk more tomorrow.” She gives Lisa a Toughen-Up-Buttercup hug and departs.

Tim holds out his arms. “Lisa, I’m so sorry.”

She moves into his embrace. “I guess I didn’t make it work.”

He pats her back. “I’m not saying that so much anymore. But listen … I’m simply stunned. I thought that was excellent work.”


“Did any of the judges’ comments resonate with you?”

“Well … I respect their opinions very much. I hope to send more books down the runway. And it doesn’t really matter whether or not I agree with them. Their answer was no. So I’m not sure what I’m going to do next.”

Tim gives her another pat and releases her. “You’re very talented, Lisa. Did you pay attention to that comment?”

Lisa nods.

“Here’s what you’re going to do,” says Tim briskly. “You’re going to self-medicate with chocolate and comfort movies for a few days. And your friends and loved ones, of course! That prescription is 100 % effective for these kinds of setbacks. Then you’re going to buckle down and decide how to proceed with this project. All right?”

“All right.”

“It’s far too early to despair. Your book may well be the winner on a different runway. Let’s hope this imaginary depiction accomplished two things: it provided some mild amusement … and it served as a reminder to aspiring authors that published authors get rejected, too.

“I hope so,” says Lisa.

“Now I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to go back to the workroom and pack up your things.” Tim escorts Lisa down the hall, sharing gossip about the Project Runway designers.

Hi, it’s Lisa. First person now, instead of third. I hope you enjoyed the most recent Tim Gunn In My Head post. It’s a true story … heavily embellished. Heidi would probably object to the styling. :-)

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