After a couple of years, I finished my first book—my baby, my work of art—but I was still uncertain of my writing abilities. It didn’t matter. At some point I had to stick my neck out and submit it to an editor. I followed all the submission rules to the letter, mailed it off and waited, and waited, and waited…
Finally that self-addressed, stamped envelope returned: “Thanks but no thanks” the basic rejection letter stated. I squared my shoulders. “Fine, fine. I can handle this.”
The problem was, I had no idea why my book had been rejected. What had I done wrong? What had I done right?
I took a few more classes, got a few more opinions, and made a few more changes. This process repeated over and over again until I felt guilty spending the money on postage. Just like fishing, I finally got a nibble from a Harlequin editor: “I liked your writing style and your story but we cannot accept it at this time.”
At this time? Why? Why couldn’t they accept it at this time? I took a bold move, telephoned a florist and had flowers delivered to the editor in New York. When she telephoned to thank me… (I almost dropped dead), I questioned her about the whys. Her answer was they weren’t taking stories about journaling. That was last year’s news. Journaling? That’s not what my story was about. I desperately searched my brain, realizing I had mentioned journals in the query. I did a quick re-pitch, but I couldn’t reel her in—the fish was off the hook. But I realized one valuable lesson: how important a top-notch, well written query letter is.
After numerous other rejections, advice from others that had me yo-yoing back and forth with changes, I decided to pay to have my book professionally edited. Yes, I felt terribly guilty. So far my writing endeavor had only been costing us money. I so desperately wanted to contribute to our financial situation (laugh, laugh, but that’s another blog).
I found a company ran by the creator of the 1995 movie, Waterworld, starring Kevin Costner. How could I go wrong? Well, trust me. If I can screw something up, I do. The biggest suggestion made by the editor was that my book was anticlimactic. I needed to end the story at the place of the last action-packed scene. I immediately cut the ending scene—the wrap-up, if you will—and modified the ending. There were only two other writing mistakes, according to the editor, that I had made throughout the book. I felt so relieved. Finally, after all those years, all those rejections, I’d gotten to the bottom of my writing mistakes. (By the way, this company soon after became defunct, but I knew what I needed to know.) Yippee!
With my newly revised book, I started out again searching for that publishing house that wanted my fabulous book. The rejections poured in until I got another nibble: “We like your story but cannot accept it as written. If you would consider making revisions to the ending and include a wrap-up scene, we would consider looking at your book again.”
Are you kidding me? I already had one written. All I had to do was add it back in. I fired off an email submission and the book was accepted within two days. I couldn’t believe my luck. Or, was I all that lucky?
The story doesn’t end there. Next time: On The Writing Road: Publishers and Contracts.
Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense...and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at: http://www.dragonflyromance.com