Tag Archive | rejection

When a Rejection Bears Fruit

I started writing in 2009. One novel through National Novel Writing Month. Had fun. Kept writing, clueless about all I didn’t know about writing and publishing fiction.

logoIn 2012 I wrote a historical novella A Wisconsin Christmas Blessing. I submitted it to a company called Pelican Book Group who was putting together a Christmas collection of novellas. The submission process resulted in a request for the full manuscript. Naive me – I thought I had it made. I was going to be published.

Not so fast, Susan. 

I got a rejection letter from one of the editors. But I didn’t get just a rejection letter. I received a 1 1/2 page (when I printed it out) email. She said: “I would like to list the most common errors to point out some things  that might help you prepare your manuscript for re-submission.” Six specific areas of growth to be exact. SIX! Talk about humbling.

fragileblessings1-copyDetailed, informative and time-consuming. As disappointed as I was at the rejection, I felt honored at her willingness to help me, a novice writer, grow. I sent her a thank you note for all the time she took to write that email and help me.

prism-new-logoI sat on that story for a few years. Time can often equal growth and wisdom if we let it! After I became an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group another opportunity for a Christmas series of novellas arose so I rewrote my novella using all the tools that this fabulous and compassionate editor had given me. It was contracted, renamed and Fragile Blessings was published in 2015 to great reviews.

Now this is where it gets really weird. Prism Book Group was recently acquired by Pelican Book Group as one of their imprints. This also means that all my published works are now technically Pelican books (under the Prism Book Group imprint). So in essence, Pelican did end up publishing my novella! To be honest, the editor had given me an open door to resubmit that I had never taken her up on. God knew.

So now I will be part of a team of editors who I get to work with, one of whom was integral in helping me grow in my writing. Since that rejection, I’ve published two novellas, a collection of short stories, three novels (and a fourth coming soon) and have seven more books contracted. And another two with my agent.

Here are some of the lessons I learned that hopefully will help others: 

  1. Listen to the feedback you get from rejections. Not all of it will be right – but you can always learn something.
  2. Don’t give up. Maybe that story isn’t the one that’s going to sell, keep writing. Obviously, I didn’t stop at one novella given how many stories I’ve written. Write long, write short. Just don’t quit.
  3. Trust in God’s timing. My story wasn’t ready for publication in 2012 but after some conferences and growth and writing more stories in between, when I went back to that novella, I had better skills to apply to make it publishable.
  4. Don’t burn bridges. Can you imagine if I had sent a scathing note to that editor? She would have told her boss and do you think that woman would have been as eager to bring me on as an editor? It’s a small world in Christian publishing and while yes, we are commanded to forgive, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be trusted with the bigger tasks God might have in store with you down the line.
  5. Relish the new opportunities for growth. That editor is now someone who I’ll be working more closely with now with the books I edit and I hope and anticipate I’ll learn even more on my journey because I hope I never stop improving my stories or my editing for others.
  6. It’s okay to laugh. I am giggling at God’s path that led me here. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined this journey he’s had me on and the blessings of the people He’s brought in my path. Writing (and editing) is hard. Pouring your soul on paper is not without risk and life itself throws us curveballs all the time. I’m grateful for the people God’s placed in my life to help me get to those next steps.

I’ve kept that editor’s name private for now… she knows who she is and my hope is that you’ll treat every editor you meet, not as your enemy, but as someone who really can help you grow, even when you get a rejection letter.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Fragile Blessings tied for second place as an inspirational short at OKRWA International Digital Awards for 2016. Not too shabby for a story that was initially rejected, right?

How about you, if you write, do you have any stories of things you’ve learned through the “rejection” process?

What’s Your Favorite Flavor?

Image courtesy of debspoons / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of debspoons / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? My oldest son is pure vanilla. My daughter loves cherry and my middle son love Reece’s ice cream.

Hubby will eat about anything. I don’t think he has a favorite.

I love a mint chocolate chip but have been known to enjoy butter pecan or praline ice cream at times. Because ice cream messes with my asthma, it’s a few and far between treat…and it better be the best there is when I do have it.

Now if you asked me about favorite popsicle flavor I would be all over the board. I love cherry but also root beer and banana!

Our reading tastes are as varied and diverse as our taste for cool deserts in summer. For instance, I love a good romance, but I’m not as keen on southern romances and avoid Amish. I’m a fan of western historical and Regency time period. I have friends who love WWII fiction. Others who love thrillers or mysteries. I love a good romantic suspense but not a pure suspense. Women’s fiction is great but not my “go to” kind of thing.

Reviews can reflect more the taste of the reader than the quality of the book. Let’s face it. I’m not a fan of Stephen King but that doesn’t mean he is a poor writer. He’s not. He’s brilliant and has carved out a career for himself. Nicholas Sparks has a following too but while I’ve read him, he’s not my fave either. Now personally, I won’t do reviews on books like that if I don’t absolutely have to. “Have to” is when I’ve been given a free copy and in return write a review–good, bad or indifferent about it. As an author (or even a reader looking at reviews to decide whether you want to read the book), take that into account as you read the especially negative ones. My favorites are those who got a free copy of a Christian book and then take issue with the faith element. Um, duh? It was clearly stated that there was going to be an inspirational component! Yeah, not all readers are as smart as you and me.

Editors and Agents have preferences too! Sometimes a book could be well written but just not quite what we prefer. At Prism Book Group we will often ask another editor to read it to see if they want to take it on. Sometimes we just don’t have the time though. It is hard to say no to a great story, but sometimes we have to because it has to be a favorite, not just dessert for the sake of ice cream.

Even publishing houses have their flavor. I had friend say, “I don’t have a Bethany House voice.” I had to stop and think about that because I do read a lot of Bethany House authors and I think that writer is correct. There is a particular kind of voice they like. But another publisher may not. And you may not either. I’ve had friends read a book I raved about and been disappointed. It wasn’t their flavor! And that’s okay.

Editors and Agents don’t like to give rejections, but let’s just face it. If I don’t love your story as much as you do, then you do not want me to do the editing job on it. It’s hard work to edit a book but I like to enjoy my work and if I have a less than thrilled attitude going in, no matter how hard I try, I can’t guarantee I’ll be bringing my best game to your project. Not that I wouldn’t try. I would. But you want your editor or agent to be a champion for your book, to cheer you on, encourage you to make it the best. You need to know we aren’t being nasty when we give you those edits, but we are trying to polish your book, make sure its flavor is the best it can be, so the right readers can enjoy it too.

What is your favorite flavor–of ice cream or novel?

 

That’s it, I Quit!

I met with some writing friends recently and we were talking about the crazy life of an author.

The struggle to get a story just write right.

The reality of writing, revising, rewriting and then being told it’s wrong or an editor wants you to do it differently.

The conflicting opinions on certain “rules” (no head-hopping for instance, something that is more acceptable in secular fiction).

The length of time it takes to get any response from an editor or publishing house.

Being accepted and then still finding your work isn’t “good enough” for that particular person.

One gal said, “I’ve quit three times this past week.”

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hit a spot last week too where I was beset by self-doubts.

Most authors struggle with these thoughts at some point.

If you don’t write, I hope you can understand this. Writers spend hours, days, weeks, months YEARS crafting the book that is held in your hands. Every step along the way feels like a benchmark but is laden with pitfalls.

You get an agent–but they want you to make changes before they try to sell your work.

You get a book contract–and the editor of the publishing house asks you to make changes to the writings of your heart and dreams.

You finally get published and  people condemn it.

That’s an awful lot of criticism for an author to have to deal with. Then, it starts all over again with the next book.

So why did I sign up for this masochistic career?

Because God called me to and His purposes in my writing are bigger than my dream of being published. How often I lose sight of that when life is overwhelming and I just want to cry, curl up in a ball with my puppy and lick my wounds. Well, he’d be licking his butt – probably a good illustration for how distasteful this torture is.

And most of us don’t get paid until after the book is published and people take their shots at us.

So I expect I’ll be serving my resignation many times in the future. God never seems to take it very seriously though and I’m glad he undersands the wounds and struggles in the process.

It is a process–and not always pleasant, but I am learning more about myself as well as how to write better. The reality is that will be a lifelong process. There is no “arrival” in this career. At least not until we get to heaven and see our names published in the Lamb’s book of life. Now that’s worth struggling for.

Rejection is Part of the Game

I’m in the midst of some changes in my involvement in church ministry. It’s been hard being in leadership because being in a position like that is like putting a target on your back and letting everyone practice shooting arrows at you.  The hard part is that it is rarely that people criticize you for things failing or not going well – the attacks get personal.

I have been slandered over the years more times than I can count. The attacks are more on my personality or character and often judging my motives.

This kind of thing is hard. If you need affirmation and encouragement – this is NOT the place to find it. Sad isn’t it? The church, where we are to be “building one another up and encouraging one another as the day is drawing closer” can often be the place of our greatest pain.  Yet God has given me a deep love for the body of Christ.

I do get affirmation from close friends and leadership.  I am blessed by so many people I have served with. Still, it hurts to maligned and misunderstood.

Maybe that’s why I’m such a champion of respecting and praying for our church leaders. I know firsthand the pain of attacks and the difficulty leaders face in leading a group of volunteers who are trying to be “family” in the body of Christ.

But, I’m a writer too. Writing is also ministry. There is something different about rejection in writing. For instance,  I just got a rejection of a manuscript that had been requested in full. Ouch. It hurts whenever someone doesn’t think your work is good enough. But that’s just it – it’s my work. I can improve.  I can grow.  This editor was a blessing in the way she delivered  her rejection. She took the time to give me specific areas where there were problems with my writing and how to change them.  She encouraged me to submit again in the future. This is highly unusual in the publishing industry. She didn’t blacklist my name or say I was a crappy person too full of myself to see how awful my writing was.

Rejection is part of the game with writing and seeking publication. It just is. The more I’m on line the more I see how many of us are out there pursuing our dream, writing our stories and trying to honor God with our gifts. Sometimes I admit, I feel jealous of the success of others when they finally get that contract, that book art, that first box of books with THEIR name on the cover.

I know I could have those things if I self-published and ignore the opportunity to grow. But I want to give God my best effort. That takes work and I’ll admit that sometimes I fear I’ll never be good enough. I’m so blessed by my readers cheer me on.  They remind me of how God has already used my writing for His glory.

In writing the rejections are usually not personal.  My writer friends know I’m zany and crazy and fun. They believe in me because they know I desire to grow and I’m not so full of myself to think I’m the next hot thing since Stephen King.

So I’m going to keep writing and serving God here until He says no more or calls me home. I’ll still serve in the church but the way that happens is shifting, and I embrace that. The Scripture God keeps bringing to my mind is this:

How do you handle rejection? What is God doing in your life that is new and fresh?