Love Your Novel
by Leah Crichton
I remember when my novel was born like it was yesterday. I was having a little pity party over the lunch hour about why I could never finish a book. I was on the national novel writing month website wondering if I had the guts to commit. I logged out and thought no, I can’t even get a solid beginning, middle and end for all the ideas swirling in my head. Joining nanowrimo would be a form of masochism and I’m just not into that.
Lunch was over. I shoved my iPod into my ears and hit shuffle. Two songs played consecutively and the words from the music formed two of the major players in my book. The rest of the day dragged because I anticipating bringing these people to life. Truly my “lightbulb” moment.
I started writing Amaranthine that night and didn’t stop for eight solid months. I poured my heart, mind and soul into every word. I lived, breathed and slept that book.
Then I started querying. The best advice I got was from my dad, (who was a published author himself before I was born). He said: “Listen, you need to get some very thick skin, because even if you think you’re ready for it, rejection is going to sting.”
He was right. The responses I got varied from outright rejections, to requests for fulls, partials, synopsis’ and everything else in between.
“Dear Author, thank you for submitting…”
“Dear Leah, Don’t give up on your dreams…”
One rejection stands out as a turning point for me. This particular publisher had a two step process. If the query and manuscript made it past point one, it went on to a panel of teen readers. If both groups agreed, you’d be laughing. I only made it past round one, but the panel of teens had put together a list of suggestions to make it stronger.
I was lucky. It was like having ten betas at once.
I rewrote it.
I sent it to a fellow writer. We “met” online and hit off a friendship right away. Her writing is spectacular and I wanted her opinion since she read the original. She beta read the entire thing for me and sent it back.
I rewrote it.
She combed through it again and sent it back.
I rewrote it.
I sent it to my aunt.
She read it and made suggestions.
I rewrote it.
Do you see a pattern starting to establish itself here?
Finally I began the whole query process again.
The day I got my offer, I remember staring at the words blankly like they were written in some other language, hoping they would sink in… only problem was, the offer was from a small publisher and my manuscript was in the hands of two agents at the time.
I asked the publisher for time and emailed both agents explaining the circumstances and requesting that they get back to me asap.
Here’s where you may think I’m crazy. Certifiable.
One agent requested a week to make a decision. Doable. Longest week of my life, no doubt… The other was like superman. Her reply came faster than the speed of light.
“Of course… still interested…would love to represent you… mind giving me details of the offer? Who is it with? Need help with contract negotiations?”
Yes, I minded very much. A sick, sinking feeling burned in the depths of my stomach.
I ignored her response and contacted anyone I knew in the business. What do I do? I have an offer from a small publisher and an honest to God literary agent. The decision was supposed to be simple right?
I mean, the agent would ensure I could sell my house, move to some remote location near the blue sea of the Caribbean and abandon anything else except writing the next big thing. Right?
I couldn’t shake the feeling. Everything in my head was pointing to “agent” everything in my gut was telling me to run.
To make a long story short, I signed on the dotted line with the small press and haven’t looked back since. It may not be the choice for everyone but it was the right choice for me.
My publisher cares about my story. She cares about me. She asks about my kids, and my life and lets me in on tidbits of hers. She is passionate, she is committed and she stands for everything I believe in about my book.
There are a few key points one could take away from my experience.
#1) Don’t jump the gun and start to query too soon. Get as many people to read your book and make suggestions. Give every critique careful consideration and don’t be offended by other people’s honesty. They took the time to read your work, they took the time to offer their advice and you should always be grateful. Beta readers are perhaps the most valuable tool to have as a writer. There is no question in my mind that without them, my book wouldn’t be nearing publication.
#2) Love your story. Love it so much that you don’t mind writing it…over…and over…and over…and over again.
#3) God imbedded an instinct inside all of us that’s hard to ignore, follow it! I’m living proof it won’t steer you the wrong way...because right now, life is golden!