Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Monday, April 30, 2012

on the ups and downs

On March 15, 2012, I sent a query for version number four of my current work in progress to a publishing house.  It was probably the hundredth version of the query (not a joke), and I picked a handful of publishers to send it to after not having any luck with agents on a previous version.  I got a response back that day.  THAT DAY!  The editor who read women's fiction queries (still not sure about that category) loved the synopsis.  After a few questions about myself (a first!) she asked if she could share it with her partner.  Of course!  Share away!

Along with some kind words about my manuscript, she also forwarded me the terms of the contract they would surely offer.  THE CONTRACT!  A big-time first.  I shared it with a few writer friends, and they were off-the-wall.  If they talked about a contract, then surely, I was in.  Me.  A published writer.  Finally!

So, after a lot of jumping up and down and trying in vain to contain my squeals of glee in the bathroom at work, I did my research.  They were reputable.  The contract was fair, maybe even a bit more than fair.  In the car on the ride home, I couldn't stop smiling.  I cried tears of joy.  Finally, my moment.  My time to shine.  After years of work, my baby (one of three, mind you) had a life, had a home.  I thought, so this is what it feels like to be recognized, to be validated.  I was over the moon.  I.  Was.  On.  My.  Way.

In the next few weeks, I worked on a marketing plan, dreamed about how I would share the good news, fantasized about how it would surely get made into a movie.  It was a great couple of weeks.

And then they threw on the brakes.

The co-editor was not interested.  In a most professional and respectful rejection, I was allowed to see her notes.  I didn't get mad.  I didn't call her names for not liking it.  Calmly, I read them, took them in, and went back to work.

Because though I don't agree with most of the comments, the whole thing was my fault.  And an excellent learning opportunity, yet another in my journey.  Because my novel is not a good fit at their house.  Not at all.  Had I taken the time to get to know what they publish, I would have known that.

Duh, right?  I guess I was just so used to sending my query out blindly (well not totally, I do some research) and assuming if it wasn't a good fit it would get tossed.  Instead, I wasted their time. Very humbling.

And, I didn't wholly represent my novel in the synopsis.  Another big learning opportunity.  You are supposed to leave out small details, like ancillary characters.  But I've learned that when small details include a gay character, girls watching porn, drug and alcohol use, and casual sex, maybe it's best to hint about it.  I guess I take for granted that people are okay with these things.  I guess I live in a world where these things are (or can be) the norm.  I guess when writing a novel dealing with musicians and tattoo artists I assume people get what comes with that world.

I also live in a world where I categorized my novel as women's fiction.  Unfortunately, it was read within the confines of a romance novel.  I agree with the comments - if I read romance novels (which I don't), I wouldn't want my heroine watching porn to find out how to give blow jobs.  I wouldn't want my hero to do drugs and die of cancer.

So I get why it was rejected.  No doubt about it.  Lucky for me, one of the comments really struck a chord.  It dealt with an issue I'd been toying with anyway, and just drove it home.  It led to the fifth revision (now done!), and to making my novel even better.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's to make the most out of criticism.  No missed opportunity ever goes unnoticed.

On a related note, any idea who publishes edgy women's fiction?  I'm having a hard time with this one.  It doesn't seem to be edgy enough for most publishers that deal with that sort of thing, but it's too edgy for ones who don't.  Maybe this deserves it's own post.


Hart Johnson said...

Oh, man--definitely the highs and lows! It's great that you're taking it as a learning experience. And I totally agree that if I saw tattoo artists and musicians, you'd expect stuff like that.

I have no clue on women's lit publishers, but you know who might know? Jessica Bell at the Aliterative Allomorph writes literary women's fiction and has some dark leanings (she's the daughter of two musicians, one of them with pretty serious mental health issues), though her book that I've read isn't quite that dark--but I bet she knows the market, since she writes in it.

Kelly Hashway said...

Oh, what a roller coaster ride of emotions. Good luck to you.

I found you through Writers Digest, and I'm a new follower. I hope you'll check out my blog and follow me back.