Saturday, February 21, 2009

When Bad News is Good News

Late last October, I received the dreaded rejection letter. I'd submitted my novella, Secrets Uncovered, to several places and it hadn't sold yet, though one editor requested to see other work from me. But, there was one house particularly interested in the work and they requested a full manuscript and the editor seemed in love with the premise. But, then, in October, I got my reply.

At first, I was devastated. It hurt. After all of the editing, revising, reworking, rewriting, I was just tapped out of energy. I knew I wouldn't abandon this book, but I decided to take a break for a while and work on other novellas in the mean time.

Recently, I'd done a reading for myself. My godmother had bought me the I Ching for Writers book and I did a reading that suggested that I should focus on revisions. It was also around the time of Mercury Retrograde, so that seemed very appropriate. But, I didn't know which book I should work on. Should I work on Secrets Uncovered again or should I totally revise my current work-in-progress (since I'd recently come to the conclusion that the new book had started in the wrong place)?

I was led to go back to Secrets Uncovered. I sent the manuscript to a few friends for a beta read and I also brainstormed advice with other writer friends. Then, I decided to go back and look at the rejection letter. I re-read it and something magical had happened. I didn't see the pain and the hurt of the rejection anymore. I saw a reply from an editor who sincerely believed in the book's potential. So much so that more than one editor had read the book and they felt the need to give me a paragraph or so of constructive feedback. And, in the end, she said something to the effect of: "Just because we did not buy the book now does not mean that we would not in the future nor does it mean that we would not look at other work submitted by you." She also told me how much she enjoyed the first half of the book and that the end was just too rushed/underdeveloped. My impression was that she wanted a much longer story to fully develop the character arc and conflict.

In my new frame of mind, I decided to show the bulk of the letter to a couple of my published friends and one told me, "This looks more like a revise and resubmit to me." My critique partner, Belle Scarlett said, "Honey, this is the best rejection letter I've ever seen!" And she works not only as a fiction writer but a script story analyst.

So, I began to look at the situation in a new light. The book was stalled, but not dead. And, I'd often fantasized about it being a novel anyway. There are all of these extra characters floating in my head who never made it into the last draft I sent to the publishers. Writing a full-length book will give me a chance to let them tell their stories, too.

In the last month or so, I decided to extend my 30K novella to 60K-90K. If it makes 60K, I'll resubmit it to the editor who was enthusiastic about the book and if it makes it to 90K, I'll go the more traditional route of looking for a print publisher and an agent.

Sometimes, bad news is really good news in disguise.


Anonymous said...

Wow -- what a great story of turning lemons into lemonade after the sting eventually wears off. It's always helpful when an editor takes the time to tell what worked and what didn't. Here's to hoping all your hard work pays off in the end, and you have much better novel for it. Good luck!

Vivienne Westlake said...

Thank you, CL. I am glad that these experiences are making me stronger and thickening my skin. And, I know that determination and perseverance are two important factors in a successful publishing career.

Jeannie said...

That's a great attitude. As someone who's been rejected more than a couple times, a personalized rejection is golden.

Good luck with the revisions!

Vivienne Westlake said...

Thank you, Jeannie. And, thanks for beta reading for me. I appreciate it.

lainey bancroft said...

That is great news, Vivienne! And as cl and Jeannie mentioned, feedback from an editor is da bomb!

Best of luck telling the rest of the story.

Sierra Wolfe said...

What a great post! That attitude will really help you go far in this business. Congrats. And that book your grandma gave you sounds fun!

Minx Malone said...

How great that she took the time to give you feedback!


Vivienne Westlake said...

Sierra, I do like the I Ching book. The explanation of how to toss the coins and get the hexagrams is a bit confusing (I have other books that explain it much better), but I've found the actual interpretation sections to be useful.

Thank you Lainey and Minx!

Mima said...

we have so much in common, and i can't wait to read SU! i hope i can help you out, but you have half the battle covered: positive attitude and perseverance.