I’m deep into edits for the first book I ever wrote. Oddly enough, it’s about to become my fourth published novel. I’ll never forget the feeling of fulfillment when I finished that manuscript, thinking, “No matter what happens, I’ve written a book. A whole book!” Of course, I wanted it to be a published book, but published or not, the writer in me knew that the real accomplishment is in the writing.
That book took shape over a fairly long period of time. I started out with a vague idea of a story I wanted to tell. After some trial and error, I managed to shape my idea into a coherent storyline. About the time I finished my first (very) rough draft I was lucky enough to find a critique group that was made up of writers who were honest and supportive, plus they all possessed that quality indispensable in a critiquer–a sense of humor. We laughed a lot, learned a lot and, sometimes, cried a little. With their help, I coaxed my manuscript through several more drafts, until finally I had something I was proud of. Convinced I was ready, I joined the Wide World of Agent Seekers. I sent LEFT AT OZ off to a Big Time Agent. (Why not aim high?) I’m sure you can guess what happened–a form rejection. I knew (intellectually at least) that rejection was possible, even likely, but nothing really prepares you for your first rejection letter. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. A couple more agents rejected it–and, then a couple more. So much for soldiering. I put the manuscript away, vowing to think of it not as a failure, but as a learning experience. And it was; I’ve since learned that you don’t abandon a manuscript because of four or five rejections. More important, I learned to glean every possible scrap of advice from a rejection.
Fortunately, during the whole submission and rejection process, I’d kept writing and, by the time I had five rejections, I had another book to send out. This time around, I was a little more savvy about where my stories fit, so I sent it directly to Avalon, a publisher who specializes in books like mine. They accepted it and PUT OUT THE LIGHT became the first book in my Jennie Connors/Riverview Manor series. I was elated, but also a little sad, sorry that my firstborn was being left behind. I’ll spare you the details, but the short version is that two more books (CONSIDER THE LILLY and BY WHOSE HAND) have followed.
Still, I couldn’t get that first book out of my head so last fall I pulled up the file, read it through with fresh eyes–and yes, I still loved it. But I could see there were places where it could be improved. I sent a query off to Avalon asking if they would be interested in publishing a prequel. While I waited for their answer I rewrote and polished as much as I could.
Avalon responded, “Sure, send it in.” So I did. There was no guarantee they would publish it, but there never is. Each time you send a book off, there’s the possibility of rejection. It looks, though, like this book’s time has finally come. There are still edits to be made, but my firstborn is on its way to publication next spring (probably in April). I wish I could tell you its name, but that’s one of the issues I’m grappling with–the editor asked if I would consider a different title. It’s a hard decision. I like the title and believe that it fits the story on several levels. On the other hand, they’re the professionals when it comes to marketing. I have to distance myself enough to consider what three or four (maybe a few more) words will hint at the inner story and pique a reader’s interest enough to make him reach for the book. Right now, I’m stumped; it’s a problem to be solved. When I figure it out, there’ll be another problem. That’s okay. It’s all part of the double-edged joy of writing.
The important thing is, after almost ten years, the book that refused to be forgotten is emerging from my computer and edging its way toward bookshelves.
How about you? Do you have books/projects waiting their turn to emerge? If you do, don’t waste any more time. Persistence is more important than genius.
Sandra Carey Cody