Enjoy a throwback post that I wrote in 2014, because apparently I’m failing at my blogging schedule already. Yeaaay.
The first book I ever sent to a publisher was a hot mess.
I spent years and years writing fanfiction, and I loved doing it. At the back of my mind, I had always wanted to be a writer, and I had a few original ideas penned, a book written—but no drive to do anything with it. So, as my university undergraduate career slowly came to an end, I decided to get my act together and look into publishing ventures. There was so much to learn, and I still feel like I’m drowning in information about an industry that outsiders think is easy-breezy.
One day, I stumbled upon an e-book provider who accepted unsolicited manuscripts from writers without agents. I thought I had hit the jackpot. At the time, I didn’t have anything that fit with what they usually published, but then I found their prompts page. It was basically a page that dictated what their editors would like to see for the upcoming year. There were deadlines to meet and a bunch of different lines for me to write to—I was thrilled.
I eventually settled on one that I figured I could make work: historical romance. I chose the Victorian Era, and went with their prompt to write about the life of a governess. Easy. I decided to add vampires to it, because everyone likes vampires, right?
I finished the manuscript about a week before the deadline. I then scrambled to edit this massive document myself. I think I read it twice over, correcting things as I went along, and that was it.
That was it. No beta readers, no editors, no proofreaders. Hot off the presses, I submitted with a rushed query and a synopsis that was too long for anyone to care about. I, however, thought I had just handed gold over to the editors at this publishing house. Hell, I even mentioned my fanfiction in my query and just how many amazing readers I had.
So, I waited. I even told a writing professor of mine—a published author—what I had done, and he looked at me over the top of his glasses a la Albus Dumbledore.
“So, you just sent it in?” he asked.
“Yup! They said it was fine that I didn’t have an agent.”
“Oh.” A long pause. “Well, best of luck. Let me know if it gets published.”
I waited the twelve weeks it usually took for a response, and was devastated when I received my first-ever rejection. I was stunned. My work was brilliant. I had great characters, an interesting plot, and vague historical accuracy that would probably fly with an uneducated reader.
Like I said, it was a hot mess. Looking back, I realized I started my novel off with the main character in a stage-coach, where she mulled over her life up until that point. It was dreary outside. Six pages of introspection and exposition.
Cringe worthy. Never mind that I hadn’t ever read a Victorian romance before, but I thought I could get away with sending in a manuscript that no other person has ever seen except myself. Rookie mistakes across the board, and I thought I had learned my lesson.
I submitted something else to the same publishing house for a different prompt a few months later. I had a professional editor look it over, and she seemed to like it.
I waited again. I didn’t talk to anyone about it, worried that I’d get my hopes up again by sharing the news.
And… rejection. This time I was genuinely hurt; I worked really hard on the next manuscript, and I thought it was leaps and bounds ahead of the first manuscript I sent in.
But no one gives you a publishing contract for “Most Improved Manuscript”. No one cares. Once again, I hadn’t let any beta readers go through anything, and I assumed my writing experiences with fanfiction would carry me somewhere special.
It didn’t. Not even a little.
These days, I have a wonderful team of beta readers to kick my ass a little. I have people to tell me what they like, what they dislike, and what needs to be scrapped. Writers need to learn that this isn’t a solitary art. It isn’t something you should want to do on your own, even if you spend the majority of your time alone—just you and the computer/pen and notepad. You need feedback. You need your ego checked. You need help. Take it when it’s offered, you literate idiot.