Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Milestones

by Stephanie Black

So it turns out that my daughter’s high school graduation wasn’t a tearjerker sort of event, though I did come prepared with a big wad of Kleenex in my pocket. I would have been a lot more inclined to weep motherly tears at the sight of my daughter marching onto the football field wearing her purple cap and gown had I been able to pick her out from the crowd of 549 other purple-hatted graduates. Then there was the momentous moment when she received her diploma—at least I assume it was her up there on the stage; they did call her name and all, but, lacking binoculars, I couldn’t swear to her identity in court. But I have now seen her diploma with my own eyes, and can witness that she has officially graduated from high school. Big milestone.

So in the theme of milestones, I’ll go back to my discussion of writing milestones. I was inspired to write about milestones by Julie, and posted about a few of my first ones here. I've also really enjoyed Annette Lyon's posts on her writing journey, and I want to be as cool as Julie and Annette, so here goes.

When I left off in my first milestone post, I had just received my first communication from a publisher that wasn’t a rejection. Six-and-a-half months after I had submitted The Believer, I got an e-mail from Covenant telling me that they were "impressed with my storytelling abilities" but didn’t feel the story was quite right for their company. If I could target it more specifically to an LDS audience, they'd look at it again. Sci fi is a risky genre in the LDS market, so they wanted stronger LDS elements to appeal to more readers.

Naturally, I was thrilled. They planned to have a contract editor look at the book and make suggestions as to where I could enhance LDS elements. Then they would send the manuscript to me in a week or two. This was the week before Christmas, so I figured the holidays would slow things down. Plus, if they mailed me the hard copy of the manuscript, that would take a while (we were living overseas). So I waited. Finally, in February, I felt I’d waited long enough that I wouldn’t appear naggy if I sent an email inquiring about when I could expect the manuscript.

The answer I got was not a happy one. They’d been trying to decide what to do about my book. In the midst of working on my manuscript, they’d determined through market research that sci fi was too niche of a genre in the LDS market at the time. Short of rewriting the whole thing so it was a different kind of book, there was no way to make my novel un-sci fi. If they were accepting books in this genre, they would have accepted mine, but . . . bad timing.

Needless to say, I was very discouraged. There was no way I could remake the book into a contemporary thriller, nor did I want to. I thought the whole matter of The Believer was settled, but then Angela, the editor, sent me an email with the suggestions the contract editor had made before he stopped work on the book, and she had suggestions as well. At first I thought there was no way it could work, but then the little hamster wheels in my head started turning. Could I make this book into something that I’d be pleased with and that Covenant would find marketable in the current market?

I started working on it. My feelings went up and down like a yo-yo. Sometimes I was excited, and other times I felt like there was a 98 percent chance that no matter what I did to the book, it would still be too sci fi for their market. But I’d worked on the book for years, so why not take a few months to try to rewrite it for Covenant? What did I have to lose? The worst they could say was “no, thanks.” Besides, after reading the reader evaluations that Angela sent me, I could see there were elements of the book that needed to be strengthened, so I wanted to do some rewriting even if I ultimately ended up submitting it elsewhere.

I changed the setting, rewriting it as a modern twist on a Book of Mormon story. Instead of general Christian references, I made the book specifically LDS. I damped down futuristic elements. Yes, it was still technically sci fi (please don’t tell anyone, okay? Polite people call it a thriller) but I tried to make it feel un-sci-fi. It took me eleven months. Then I resubmitted it.

Which leads into the next milestone.


4 Comments:

At 6/17/2009 2:42 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Angela was a gem when it came to helping writers figure out where to go. I'm so glad she was in your court and kept encouraging you!

(And I had no idea I was cool. My WV says, "freak." :D)

 
At 6/17/2009 6:16 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

And a big cliffhanger!!

Glad you made it through the graduation all right. =] Can't wait to hear more about the milestones!

 
At 6/18/2009 9:29 AM, Blogger Josi said...

If I'm adding right, it was almost 10 months between submission and getting the rewrites back, right? Then 11 months to resubmission.wow, that's a long time.

Looking forward to the next installment, I love people's stories!

 
At 6/18/2009 12:54 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Stephanie, it's so refreshing to hear someone say I'm cool. It seems like since I've become a mother of teenagers, I'm reminded regularly that I'm not cool anymore. haha.

Your milestones are so fun to read about! I'm glad you're writing them.

 

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