Simple Cheers

 

 

 SpydersWebsmallI tell people that I have been writing for two years, but that’s a lie. My writing journey actually began a little over five years ago when I finished my first category romance. It was aimed at what was then the Harlequin Everlasting line. I wrote, polished, revised, and polished again… Then I took a few deep breaths and sent my baby out into the world.

I got a form rejection four months later. It was devastating. I had spent so much time, made such a great sacrifice, only to be rejected. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t love my baby as much as I did. Frustrated and hurt, I threw the manuscript into a drawer and didn’t pick up a pen (or keyboard) for three years. During that time I had two kids, got promoted at my day job, dealt with sickness and death of loved ones, and in general moved on with my life.

That could have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. The fact was that while all of this other stuff was going on in my life, the desire to write remained. It would surface every now and again, only to be shoved back into the recesses of my mind.

Two years ago, some interesting things happened. It was almost as if the planets were aligning. My life stabilized. My husband quit his job and stayed home to be a full time dad, freeing up a lot of my time. I switched positions at work, allowing me to have a more manageable work load and schedule. I had a mid-life crisis (can you call it a mid-life crisis when you are only 33?). It was during this crisis that I decided to try writing again. This time, I vowed, I wasn’t going to quit. I found my way to the eharlequin boards, where I met my critique group. I entered contests and submitted manuscripts… and got a lot (I mean A LOT) of form rejections. This time around, however, I managed to surround myself with people who offered constructive critiques and encouragement and in general wouldn’t let me quit. So I kept writing. And writing. For eighteen months I submitted to a variety of Harlequin lines and got nothing more than form rejections. This went on for 14 months. Then, the lovely Lauren Hawkeye hit me on the head (figuratively, of course). She made me to look beyond Harlequin’s walls. So I took a rejected nocturne bites manuscript, worked on it for another month, lengthened it, then submitted it to Loose Id. I got another rejection. This time, however, it was personal.

Someone named Barbara said while they liked my dark, edgy, writing voice, they felt that there were some problems with my story. She told me that if I was willing to make some changes, they would be willing to look at it again. So I worked on it for a month, revising and rewriting and preparing the manuscript for re-submission. Then I sent it off. It got rejected. Again. Does anyone feel my frustration at this point? This time I got a letter from the managing editor at Loose Id, Christy Lockhart. She told me that while the manuscript still had some major issues, she fell in love with my writing voice and was impressed with the quality of revisions and my commitment to the craft. She said if I was willing, she would work with me to make the manuscript publishable.

If I was willing? Heck yeah! So I worked on it for six more weeks, revising and rewriting and preparing the manuscript for submission according to her suggestions. Then I sent it off. It was rejected. Rejected!!! This was one of the hardest rejections that I ever had to read. Seriously. I’m not above saying I cried. I had a glass of wine (okay, maybe it was a bottle). Then, once I recovered, I read the letter again. The words were still there, in black and white. Christy told me that the revisions weren’t what she had hoped for, and that maybe I should just put the manuscript aside for now. No more chances for revision. But she said I revised so well! What happened?

So I cried again. I gave up. This was impossible. It was during this time that some of my critique partners started making sales, one of them even landing a big time NY agent. Talk about feeling like the bottom of the barrel. I had worked SO HARD on that manuscript. For all of my time and dedication and sacrifice, I got a whole lot of nothing.

 But…was it all really for nothing? I read the letter again. This time I was wasn’t caught in the vortex of wine induced self-pity. I was right, Christy had rejected this manuscript, but she didn’t reject ME. Let me say that again in case you missed it. She didn’t reject me.

At the end of the letter, she said that the door was still open and if I had any other manuscripts lying around…she’d be willing to look at them. Yeah, as if I actually had manuscripts sitting around collecting dust on my hard drive. Everything had already been sent out and rejected. Multiple times. And yet… There was this one novella… It was one of the first stories I ever wrote. It was written pretty much on a dare from my husband, and despite my critique partners’ enthusiasm, I felt it was too edgy, too dark to be published. It had already been rejected for Harlequin Spice Briefs and in my mind the work was dead. I mean, the heroine was a serial killer, for crying out loud. Besides me, who would want to read that? But I was desperate. I felt that if I took the time to write something new, then too much time would pass and I would lose the open door Christy held for me at Loose Id. So I submitted my novella “Cursed,” thinking of it as a place holder until I could write a more appropriate manuscript.

One hour after I submitted it, she emailed me back with one sentence. “The first line blew me away!” Then another hour goes by. “I love it, and passing it up to my boss (Treva Harte) for final approval.” I got the contract five days later. Eighteen months and three years since I wrote that first (horrible) category romance.

After countless more revisions, and a change in title, “Spyder’s Web” was released June 30, 2009. Who knew that a manuscript I had totally given up on would be the one to make me a published author? So what’s my message? I’m the poster child for never giving up. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep pushing forward despite the rejections and the frustrations and the self-pity. Even in your darkest moments, there is hope. You never know, that first sale might be just around the corner. And from a place you least suspect.

********

 

Like Lazarus Front CoverI write as Ellen Margret, and I live in England.

I’ve just been told about your site. I think it’s great to be able to
share our stories. My success story came after twenty years of
rejection. Not that I should be bitter about all the rejection. Perhaps
it was deserved, and I needed to hone my skills as a writer.

Just a few days ago my youngest daughter reminded me of the time when
yet another large, brown envelope came through the letter box. It was
self-addressed so I knew what it was, although a little part of me hoped
that inside might be a letter telling that that the publisher wanted my
manuscript. I said that I couldn’t bear any more rejection, and so could
she open it? She did, and guess what? They didn’t want me, and I had
that awful sinking feeling again. Many times I declared I should give up
writing, but my daughter told me not to be so daft. Besides, how could I
not write? It’s my self-therapy. It keep me sane, lets me be creative,
and takes my mind of the stresses of the world.

I love to write. I love to create characters and play with them. I make
my hero strong, but soft on the inside. This isn’t always obvious at the
beginning though. I love suspense, and action, and mystery. A bit of
sword play, or a ship’s battle is great to escape into. My hope is that
the reader likes my work as much as I took pleasure in writing it.

Over the years I sent work to most of the big publishers, and got
nowhere. I’ve kept all the rejection letters. Not sure why.

My success came as a result of sending my novel, ‘Like Lazarus‘ to
Midnight Showcase Fiction. No brown envelope through the post, just an
email. I like to think I’m helping to save the trees by being with a
publisher that concentrates on ebooks. Well, the email told me that they
had no hesitation in accepting ‘Like Lazarus’. Now, I had to read that
email three times, and even then I thought it must be a mistake. I was
astonished. I phoned my husband, and told my son straight away. Then I
phoned my mum. They were pleased. My son even bought me some sparkling
wine.

The novel came out at the end of 2007, and I was delighted. Sales
weren’t very high, but I was new, and my goodness I learned so much from
the editing process. I’m still learning. Some of the work I have in
print, I’d like to edit again, because I’m getting more and more of a
perfectionist.

‘Like Lazarus’ is a paranormal romance. The hero is adorable. At least I
think so. This is the blurb:-

‘Rafe Acer never ceased to exist when murdered.  He spends twenty years
as an avenging spirit in the astral realms, visiting his frozen corpse
regularly.  Miraculously brought back to life by Doctor Selena Steele,
he seeks justice and finds his second chance at life becomes a second
chance at love
.’

Other works followed, including the sequel ‘Loving Lazarus’. Much of my
work is paranormal, although I write a lot of historical romance too.
I’ve written angel stories, and I have a Sci Fi book, called ‘Double
Nova’.

My novels and short stories are with Midnight Showcase Fiction –
www.midnightshowcase.com.

I also have a story coming soon with Dark Castle Lords publications –
www.thedarkcastlelords.com.

My website is www.ellenmargret.co.uk

Thanks for reading, and taking an interest. I wish everyone well.

Ellen
 ********

*Disclaimer – do not try this at home.  Seriously.* WHeavenSent

 

I’d just received my tenth rejection on Heaven Sent, which as everyone knows is a complete bummer, and I thought I’d never be published.  I was taking a bubble bath, trying to ease the tension of the big, “sorry, but this just isn’t right for us at this time” rejection letter, when one sentence hit me like a ton of bricks.

 

“I’ll break your back like a dry twig in Autumn.”

 

Yes, my Muse had returned with a vengeance.  Within seconds I was visualizing a kick-ass assassin, clutching a dagger, wearing leather, and standing in front of two vampires and a demon.  Her name was Alexia, and she demanded a story of her own.  I wrote three chapters in two days, and without so much as an edit, I sent the chapters to Samhain with a blurb I cooked up in five minutes. 

 

Now, let me reiterate, this process is not recommended.  I never really expected anything but a rejection, or a polite, “You can send us other manuscripts you have.”  I was getting a lot of those, but no actual bites.  The next day I received a response, much to my surprise.  “Loved it.  Send us the full.”

 

Squeeze me?  I don’t HAVE the full.  So, I did what any determined, motivated writer would do.  I called my critique partner and cried like a two-year-old.  I finally had a hit, and I screwed it up – BIG TIME.  My critique partner talked me off the ledge and told me to start writing.  I believe her exact words were, “Sit your ass down and write.”  So I did.

 

I wrote chapter after chapter.  I don’t think I ate, and I’m pretty sure I have a few gray hairs from the stress of it all, but three days later I finished it and sent in the full (We’re talking novella here, so don’t be too impressed).

 

No, it wasn’t published right away.  In fact, the editor said she felt the story was rushed.  (Hmmm, I’ve no idea why it would feel rushed.  LOL)  But, she gave me a revise and resubmit on Alexia.  I was in the middle of writing Asmodeus at the time.  I decided to finish Asmodeus, turn that in to Samhain, and then work on Alexia. 

 

Samhain had both my books in a matter of weeks.  I was on the phone with my sister when I received my contract offer for Asmodeus.  There was a message from Samhain in my inbox, and I was terrified to open it.  Re: Asmodeus submission.  (My sister was yakking away on the phone, oblivious to the fact I could barely breathe and was on the verge of passing out.)  I opened it up and saw one word in big, bold letters – CONGRATULATIONS!

 

About a month later they contracted Alexia also.  (My editor and I renamed the novella after the hero, Azazel.) 

 

So, that’s my First Sale story, complete with all the embarrassing details. 

CheersETS If you’d like to share the story of your first sale on our weekend Cheers, please send it to barbara@barbarajhancock.com 

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Comments
3 Responses to “”
  1. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories with us! I think it’s so helpful for writers to hear about the ups and downs of the business so that they won’t let themselves be discouraged.

    Cheers to all of you for not giving up and for believing in the stories you had to tell!

  2. Great idea Barbara! Sue, I love your story and am so glad I was hanging out on eharl, a great place to meet some wonderful ladies and talented authors!

  3. Suzanne Rock says:

    The feeling is mutual, Jules. I’m so glad I found you and the others on eharlequin. I know I wouldn’t be writing today if I didn’t. 🙂

    Thanks so much Barbara, for coming up with a great idea and suggesting that I tell my story!

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