I wasn't sure I was going to blog about this, but what the hell, right? We're all writers around here. You'll understand.
Last night, I got the mother of all rejections. It's a long story, what happened, so here's the quick version. Last summer, I started shopping my first "real" novel--or at least one that felt ready and that my readers loved. The first company that looked at it called the next day and requested exclusivity. They ultimately passed, but I was excited. We had something cooking. You could feel it. Another big publisher passed quickly, but with a very nice note: "This author can really write, but it's not right for our list." And then on the third submission, we seemed to hit pay dirt. A Big Publisher was interested. In fact, THE Big Publisher was interested. We were going to acquisitions.
What followed were the longest 18 months of my life. They liked the book, but not quite enough to offer a contract. They wanted revisions. So we went through two rounds of serious revisions, each round with a penetrating, single-space, multipage rewrite letter. I worked round the clock some weeks. I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. I've never worked this hard on anything. I deconstructed the book a dozen ways.
I submitted the final draft last September. They had it for a long time, and in the meantime, the economy tanked, publishing ground to a halt, fads came and went, and we heard nothing. Slowly, painfully, I started to become convinced they weren't going to buy it after all. And they didn't. Ultimately, although there was much to like about the project, they said it wasn't character-driven, that it was plot driven. It was fun and fast and smart, but there was no transformation of character. Or at least not enough.
So. What do you feel when something like this happens? My first reaction, when my agent told me they were passing, was something like shock. I was simply numb. I had prepared myself to hear the word NO, but hearing it in real life was still a hard thing. My second reaction, oddly enough, was relief. I could write again. I was out from underneath this massive stone that has been hanging over me all this time. Sure, I would have preferred to sell it, but I also needed this chapter in my writer's journey to end. Later, I thought the worst part would be telling my family and friends that the book got rejected. Many people have lived this drama with me. I'm so grateful to the people who were happy for me. My mom was so excited ...
But I can honestly say I never felt sorry for myself, and I never felt bitter. I never railed against the publishing industry, and I never said, "But so many other WORSE books get published! Look at the crap that's out there! Why not mine?!" Perhaps because I never thought the universe owed me this. And perhaps because, even now, the morning after, I can't say this was a negative experience. I learned an incredible amount about how to write a novel, and I'm not sure I could have learned it any other way. I might have missed the lesson had it not been delivered with the business end of a sledgehammer. Finally, because I think writing is about growth as a person. You can never quit if you're serious about it. So I've got a new book ready to go, one that I strongly believe in. And I'm working on another after that.
So there it is. My story. I started this blog because I was at the end. I knew we were waiting for an answer, and some days, the pressure was just brutal. I virtually stopped writing because we were stuck. We couldn't shop the new book. We couldn't shop the old book. We could do nothing but wait, wait, wait ...
All that's over now. I'm free again. Yeah, it pretty much sucks, but I'm really not back at square one. I'll never be the same writer I was last June, when my agent called and said, "I think we've got a sale!" And I remain convinced of one thing: my call is still waiting out there. I just have to find it.