If you follow me on FaceBook, you know I recently went to Boston to meet with an editor. I promised to document my writing journey in this blog—complete with rejections—so here’s the story.
I got rejected again. (But it’s not all bad–read on.)
Through the efforts of another writer, I had the opportunity to get my manuscript before an editor at a major publishing house. This editor wrote me a very nice letter to say she was rejecting it because the story was bogged down by the history. (I wrote about this danger.)
I stared at her email for about fifteen seconds. We are told not to reply to a rejection. And, I worried that bugging this publisher would reflect badly on the writer who had gone to bat for me.
But here was someone in a major house who had actually written me a personal letter. Immediately, I wrote back.
Dear Ms. ____:
Thank you so much for your time and your thoughtful comments. If the novel has this issue—and I certainly see what you are saying—can you suggest an editor whom I could hire to help me make it publishable?
Please forgive this last imposition on your time.
Now yes, I could have gone in with a chainsaw and hacked up my novel myself. But I really don’t know just how much history readers of historical fiction want.
I didn’t hear for an entire day and then the wonderful woman recommended: a freelance editor who I think might be a good fit for you. She’s very experienced and has a special affinity for and interest in historical fiction.
I sent the freelance editor 50 pages and a synopsis. She agreed to help me whip this thing into shape.
Then I decided to go see her. I had promised myself that if I got an agent or a publisher, I would sit down with them face to face. This may be as close as I ever get, and I wanted to see into the big, mysterious beast that is New York publishing. This woman has been a senior editor at several houses and has acquired many novels. She understands the beast.
We had a great, long lunch and I got to talk to her about my other novels, about the Village Writing School, and the projects of some of our students. She was warm and funny, and I feel confident that she will make this book the best it can be for today’s marketplace and, importantly, that she understands and respects what I am trying to say through it.
But, a couple of reality checks:
I do not have a publisher yet. I am paying this woman to edit my novel.
I’m not telling you to go hire an editor. I have heard many horror stories of people losing thousands of dollars and getting really bad advice. In my next newsletter, we’ll look at the process of shopping for an editor, and I’ll give you some possibilities.
Of course I won’t send the novel to anyone else until I get her edits, which she says will be by late January. Then I’ll get to use her name in my query letter, and that’s no small thing.
But most important to me, I will know that this novel will be the best it can be. And if it doesn’t ever get published, it won’t be because I didn’t understand what the big publishers want or I couldn’t get it to them.
I have made the choice to try to be published by a major house. There are many respectable ways to be published, but this is my choice at this time.
It’s not easy. It’s a journey. Rewrite after rewrite after rewrite is the usual process. I did a major rewrite on this book during the first five months of 2016 when I rewrote the main character based on comments from an agent. I gave her comments a lot of thought, discussed them with my writing circle, and decided she was right. I made Jake younger, more idealistic. (At lunch, this editor said: this is the first novel I’ve read with a millennial hero, and I think you have totally nailed that generation.) One problem solved.
Now, here I am at the beginning of the NEXT year, facing another rewrite. But what do we say?
Thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to make this book better.