To Persevere...Is To Publish!
by Jackie Braun Fridline
Thinking about giving up? Had enough of the rejection? Hang in there. I'm convinced that half the battle of getting published is won with perseverance. Good writing, of course, helps win the other half.
But you know you're a good writer, and you know your manuscript is in tip-top shape. You've worked it and reworked it, massaging in emotion and electrifying it with sexual tension. You've had it critiqued by fellow writers, who have offered constructive advice. You've entered it in contests and received positive feedback, even if you haven't quite come out the winner. And yet the day's mail brings another disappointing letter addressed to "Dear Author."
Take heart. That's precisely what happened to me, but now I've finally made my first sale. How did I do it? In a nutshell: I didn't give up. Okay, I did, but then my husband or one of my sisters would badger me, and I'd get back at it.
You've already taken some very important steps on the road to that first sale. You belong to RWA and our wonderful Mid-Michigan chapter. I have little doubt I'd still be toiling in vain--and painfully abusing POV--had I not joined. I already had finished my first book--a very long single-title contemporary that I thought was on par with a Nora Roberts book--when I joined RWA and attended the Anaheim conference. I came away realizing I'd made a million mistakes and the manuscript that had taken me SIX YEARS to write would need major revisions to be acceptable. I decided to try a smaller project: a traditional series romance. And I set a goal. I wanted to enter the Golden Heart contest that November.
I did. Where the first manuscript had taken me years to complete--mostly because I lacked discipline--it took me just over two months to finish the rough draft for this one. I entered it, and as I waited for the finalists to be announced, I sent out queries to agents and editors alike. The results were mixed: some form rejections; some personalized ones that contained some encouraging words about my writing; some nibbles from agents who wanted to see more. Then I received back my GH scores. The manuscript finished in the top quarter of entries. I was on top of the world. I sent a query and synopsis to Joan Marlow Golan at Silhouette. This would be it, I told myself. I was attending the Chicago conference and I was so confident that I asked for an editor appointment with Ms. Golan. It came as a devastating surprise to get back a FORM rejection before the conference. Now what was I to do? I had an appointment with Ms. Golan in Chicago. How could I pitch a book she had rejected? I turned to my friends in MMRWA for help. I don't recall whose advice it was, but someone told me that since someone other than Ms. Golan had signed the rejection letter, I should just go ahead with the appointment as if I hadn't received it.
The interview was short and nerve-wracking. I made my pitch, stuttering and sweating. She stared and nodded. I fumbled ahead with details and managed to keep down my lunch. She nodded some more before telling me to send the complete manuscript to Jennifer Walsh, a new associate editor for the Romance line. (The woman would make one hell of a poker player!)
I came home and reworked the entire thing to rid it of POV problems. Nancy Fraser's earlier critique and a POV workshop really helped me understand the mistakes I had been making. I had the manuscript to Jennifer a week later. She responded favorably within three weeks. She liked it but wanted some revisions. They were minor and relatively easy to do. Three weeks later, I heard from her again. She assured me she really liked my story and my writing, but she wanted MORE revisions. These were more detailed. One pivotal scene had to be reworked. I hunkered down and got the manuscript back to her within a couple of weeks. She e-mailed me five days later. She liked the changes and would be sending it to the senior editor.
Just before Thanksgiving, I received a phone call. Jennifer apologized that it wasn't THE phone call. The senior editor liked my manuscript, liked my contemporary voice, and thought I had potential for future projects as well. BUT ... more revisions. These turned out to be doozies. The most painful: a secondary character had to go. She was based on my 99-year-old grandmother who is failing in health. Is nothing sacred, I thought?
I agonized. I sent out a message on the loop asking for advice (Thanks to the many members who responded!) During my soul-searching, I e-mailed Maris Soule with my concerns. She graciously shared her war stories and wisdom. Finally, with much help from my MMRWA friends and encouragement from my husband and sisters, I realized getting published had to be my top priority at this point. Someday, I might be able to stand firm. Now, I had to bend. I took up a scalpel and cleanly sliced out my "grandmother"--along with a hunk of my heart. I sent back a revised synopsis and the first three chapters. And waited some more.
You know the rest of the story. On Dec. 21, I got THE CALL! Words like advance and royalties and contract still seem foreign to my vocabulary, but it's a language I'm enjoying learning. And I wouldn't have the opportunity if I'd let all those rejections get the best of me.
Don't let them get the best of you. Have faith in your writing. Set goals. Surround yourself with people who believe you can do this. Be disciplined. Make a writing schedule and stick to it. Keep striving to improve.
And remember, a rejection letter isn't a dream denied; it's merely a dream deferred.