It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you write a book, you want to see it published.
We want our words read, want the reader to weep or laugh at the right places, want someone to put down the last page and be glad they took the time to travel through a world we created.
“Would I scribble in my room if no one would see my words except me and maybe a cat? I don’t think so… I like to be read.” – Julia Quinn, RWA 15
I have always written, but I have not always finished what I started. Once I started to finish the novels, the itch of curiosity needed to be scratched. Was this story any good? Would someone like it if they read it? I started sending the first chapters out to contests hoping for impartial feedback. Contests are a great way to learn how to take criticism, but they are also a source of confusion.
“This is fabulous! Publish this NOW!” – Contest Judge #1
“It’s going to take a lot of work to whip this puppy into shape.” – Contest Judge #2 (exact same story)
Once my stories started to final in contests, I got feedback from agents and editors. While their feedback was helpful, it was very high level. They told me the stories needed work, but not where the problems were exactly.
“I liked this story, apart from the hero, heroine, and the plot.” -NY editor
Obviously, I needed to find some way to improve, but how could I get better if I did not know what I was doing wrong exactly?
So when I heard about Harlequin’s Manuscript Matchmaker contest for the Love Inspired Historical line of books, and learned that the editors were offering personalized feedback, I decided this was exactly what I needed. I sent in the first three chapters of a story, with a synopsis, and a kind editor wrote back pointing out the strengths and the weaknesses of the manuscript.
Um, wait. You want to read the rest of it as well?
Okay, so I would get feedback on a full manuscript. That would be even better. I wrote every morning before work, while my inner editor was still asleep. And I managed to finish a 70,000 word novel in 4-1/2 months. By the time I finished, I could not judge whether it was good or whether it was complete, absolute, and utter tripe. But it was done, so I patted myself on the back and went to work on the next novel. I decided the best way to deal with waiting for feedback was to concentrate on the Bright Shiny Idea that had come to visit me while I was struggling with finishing this story.
I need the structure and terror of deadlines. – Mary Jo Putney, RWA 15
I gave myself until August 15th to finish the first draft of my new story, figuring that the editors would probably start sending out feedback on the full manuscripts by that time. I knew that getting a rejection would probably damage my self-esteem enough to throw me out of the writing groove for a day or two, so I was aiming to get the ms. to a stopping place before then.
Except… last week, I got a call. Oh, a New York number. Must be another recruiter wanting me to apply for a temp job at Intel.
But it wasn’t a recruiter. Instead, it was kind Shana Asaro, from Harlequin, saying that she liked my story. And wanted to publish it.
That was a surreal moment. It still doesn’t seem quite real. I think I babbled something urbane and sophisticated, like “Oh wow!” but I’m not quite sure.
It’s funny. I had planned out exactly how to handle rejection. I had never planned how to handle acceptance. I had thought that good news could take care of itself.
Note to self: plan for success.
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