Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Writing Milestones, or I Get Inspired by Julie

by Stephanie Black

Julie’s post last week on Remembering the Journey inspired me, so today I’ll blog about some of my writing firsts.

First time I finished a manuscript:

Um . . . heck. I should have written this down at the time. I can’t remember the moment! The first manuscript I finished was five-hundred-something pages (and it got longer before it got shorter. At its longest it was well over six hundred pages. The final draft clocked in at 430 pages). But I can’t remember the triumphant instant when I finished it—that moment when I’d really done it, I’d reached The End, I’d written a whole novel! And it’s a bummer that I can’t picture that moment, because that’s a REALLY significant writing milestone. The moral to the story: take Julie's advice and write things down.

First time I submitted a manuscript:

It was in March 2002, and was the culmination of a decade and a half of writing. Yep, fifteen years. From the time I first started playing around with a story idea to the moment I drove to the post office and put a manuscript in the mail to a publisher was just a few months short of fifteen years. I didn’t work steadily on writing all that time—I didn’t do a lot with it for much of college—but once I was married and home with my first daughter, I started writing more regularly. And after years of writing and rewriting and reading fiction technique books, I finally reached the point of sending my work to a publisher. That was a giant milestone.

My kids made a sign for the back of the car celebrating my novel, and they all came along for the ride. At the post office, the worker asked me if I wanted to send it book rate, but I turned red and said no (Did she know I had a manuscript in that neat cardboard box? Aaarrgh!).

I had cheesecake from Costco to celebrate.

First rejection:

Three weeks after submitting my manuscript, while chatting on the phone to my sister, I went out to the mailbox to get the mail. There I found a nice business-sized envelope addressed to me—the SASE I’d included with my manuscript.

Oh, wow. What would it say? Nervous and excited, I took it inside. While still on the phone, I opened it. It contained a polite letter from the publisher, rejecting my manuscript. Form rejection.

I wasn’t devastated, but it was a wake-up. Yeah, I had known intellectually that rejection was part of the business, but hey, my book was good, right? Then to have a form rejection come so fast that I didn't think they'd even read my manuscript—I figured they must have looked at my cover letter and summary and concluded it wasn't something they wanted—well, that was a reality check.

First communication from a publisher that wasn’t a rejection. It wasn’t an acceptance either, but it was definitely progress:

It had been over six months since I’d submitted my manuscript. I was taking the trash out and stopped by the computer to check my e-mail. It was late in the evening—we were living in Ireland, so we were seven hours ahead of Utah time. There in my inbox was an e-mail from Covenant.

Talk about an adrenaline jolt.

You know, that’s the weird thing about getting letters or e-mails from publishers. You spend countless hours writing and polishing a novel. Not only do you have a huge amount of time invested in that book, but you have an emotional investment as well. You submit the book to a publisher and you wait—knowing that your hopes and dreams for that book can come crashing to the dirt in the miniscule amount of time it takes you to read the first line of an e-mail. That’s scary.

Anyway. I read the e-mail, and it was encouraging. They couldn’t use the book in its current form, but they thought it had potential. They were offering me the chance to rewrite and resubmit.

If you’re familiar with the business of publishing, you know that an invitation to rewrite and resubmit is VERY good news—the second-best news to “we’ll take it!” So I was excited.

I've gotta go, but I'll blog about more firsts another time. Speaking of wake-ups, the IRS is mighty greedy when it comes to royalties. Sigh.


At 4/15/2009 6:18 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Usually, your blogs inspire or amuse me, but this one is making me depressed. Fifteen years?!? *sigh*

I'm sure it's because I look at my own progress and see a similar outcome. I told myself a year ago that surely I could have a book ready in a year. Way too optimistic, apparently.

Wow, on re-read this is really a downer! I'm ok, just troubled by my lack of progress. =)

At 4/15/2009 8:26 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Jon, I'm terribly sorry to depress you. I didn't realize the blog would be a downer! :) Would it help if I told you that I was counting those fifteen years from when I was seventeen years old, writing scenes inspired by a story I'd written for a high school creative writing class? It wasn't until later that I started trying to write a start-to-finish novel. I'm betting you've been writing for a lot of years too, even if you weren't actively working on a novel.

Besides, just because it took me a long time doesn't mean it will take you a long time. Everyone is different. And truth is, I had a heck of a lot of fun with writing in those years. I didn't feel stressed or frustrated, like it was taking me forever to reach the point of publication--it was a BLAST! I wrote because I loved it.

So don't stress out--have FUN with what you're doing!

(Does that help? Or should I send chocolate?)

At 4/15/2009 8:41 PM, Blogger LexiconLuvr said...

I had the exact OPPOSITE feeling! I feel encouraged and uplifted. (I'm counting from age 14 so it's been a lot of years!) It just makes me more excited to reach those milestones for myself. (And write them down too!) =]

At 4/15/2009 8:55 PM, Blogger Carolyn V. said...

Wow, I feel a little of both emotions. But I love hearing other experiences. Please keep them coming! =)

At 4/15/2009 10:21 PM, Blogger Melanie J said...

I got a resubmit invitation from Covenant and I took them up on it. Now it's the waiting game. At this point, I feel good that I finished and submitted and didn't get an outright rejection. I think that's really good for a first time effort and I'm deternined to keep a smile on my face no matter the outcome because when all is said and done, I'm learning A LOT.

At 4/16/2009 1:44 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Lexicon Luvr and Carolyn V., thank you!

Melanie J, huge congrats! That's awesome that they invited you to resubmit, and I'll keep my fingers crossed that at the end of all that waiting will be a big YES!

At 4/16/2009 1:06 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Stephanie, it was fun to read about your firsts! And to know that we both celebrate the same way--with cheesecake. :)

Thanks for sharing!


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