Monday, December 8, 2008

A Personal Case of Foreshadowing

On the way home from church and errands yesterday, amid family talk about trucks from China, plants vs. animals, and Santa's elves (we covered a lot), I made a random comment to my husband.

“I hope if Avalon doesn’t accept my book, they at least offer some constructive criticism.”

I hadn’t spoken with him about my manuscript in awhile...

Fast-forward to our road, when I said, “Let’s stop at the mailbox. I didn’t get yesterday’s mail.”

The second the flap came down, I gasped. One lonely letter lay inside, post-marked from New York. And I knew.

“It’s too thin to be good news.” I clutched it in my hands, not ready for its message.

“So open it,” my husband pressed.

The second of grasping hope, when I thought Maybe it's a letter asking me to call them, didn't last long.

It was short and to-the-point: Bliss Lake isn't right for them. They felt pacing was slow at times, and that the "religious undertones" weren't in line with their more secular preferences. (Terri, this answers a question you and I had once...) For anyone curious about what they consider religious, characters in Bliss Lake attend church a few times (with brushed-over details of a particular sermon's message), God is mentioned, and the main character prays in thought, though no overt Christianity is presented. I myself thought it was all indirect and minor to plot. So now we know.

The editors also had concerns over the presence of a stalker. While he created an ambience that didn't fit with their "family-friendly guidelines," his existence didn't present the right kind of tension between the hero and heroine, either.

So what does all this mean to me? I don't know yet.

I know I'm really disappointed. Really. I feel like my sails have lost their wind. Now - instead of a writer being considered - I'm just a writer. I feel less validated. I have to start all over again. And I have some decisions to make. Do I try to tweak pacing (if I end up agreeing) and find Christian markets, to see what they think of Bliss Lake? Or do I chalk the whole thing up to practice and experience? Many do that. It is my first novel, after all. And I tried the agent route, too. No takers.

I don't want to say I give up. Because I won't. Not on this dream of writing and being published at the novel level, anyway. The first thing I said to my husband was, "I'll keep trudgin'." So I'll strap on my boots and push myself onward.

Here I go.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. They don't know a good thing when they see it. They're just afraid people may be convicted to step foot in a church if they read it.

Hey, don't give up on your first novel...that would be sad. I'm sure someone will publish's gotta be great, you wrote it. Maybe try going the Christian publishing route. At least you'd get some feedback and know how many copies you sell, etc.

Keep up all the good work. I think it's amazing that you get SO much writing done.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Janna, consider it a blessing. You want the PERFECT agent/house to take you on...not people who think it's really not their cuppa tea. Know what I mean? Do NOT stop submitting! Do your market research and find fresh targets. Look, if you didn't find the perfect pair of shoes for an important event at Dillard's, wouldn't you walk over to Macy's, Penny's, Shoe Carnival...etc? Same deal with subbing your ms!

Now, isn't it sad that a few minor mentions of something along the Christian vein isn't right for that publisher, but they're worried about stalking not being family friendly? Listen to the words you said to DH and keep on truckin'/trudgin!

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh Janna,
I know how it feels to get that letter and the hope that dies when opening it and seeing the words--not the words you wanted to see. I've been there and for that split second it feels like you said--that I'm not a writer and not validated. But then after the mouring and yes we mourn the loss of the hope, we have nothing to do but to take the next step and try again. It's where I am now and so we are doing this together.
Your book might not have been right for them but it must have held enough merit for them to at least have taken a second look and that is more than many writers have ever gotten. Save that critique and use it as your motivation to do even better!
I think you might want to persue some Christian markets cause it sounds like there is enough there to cover that area for them. Have you yet?

Jenna said...

I'm so sorry Janna...I can only imagine the sting of that rejection. Regardless, you ARE a writer and you have a completed novel under your belt and some insight from a publisher...that's lot more then a lot us have :).

I know this means a lot of decisions to make on how to proceed but in the end you'll find your way...we writers always do, right :).

Melanie Hooyenga said...

Janna, I'm so sorry. But like Angie said, you want someone who loves it, someone who feels as passionately about your story as you do. It sounds like they had a problem with the theme, not the writing, so that just means they aren't right for YOU.

Meanwhile, settle back with a mocha in your comfy chair and read a nice book. :)

Joanne said...

Janna, I'm sorry about your rejection, but getting feedback from a publisher means a lot. They took your writing seriously enough to give you input; take what they say into consideration in your decision making. Would they possibly reconsider after a revision? Why don't you send a followup email thanking them for their input and asking if they might give a second look upon a revision? This has happened, you already opened the door once. Keep us posted!

Janna Leadbetter said...

Fringegirl - Wow, you make a girl feel good. Thank you!

Angie - You're right, of course. :) My line of thinking hadn't made it that far yet, but it's indeed something to keep in mind. *hugs*

Terri - I think that's what I'm leaning toward, just since stewing last night. I do remember checking into Harlequinn's LoveInspired imprint back around the same time as Avalon, so I may look them up again. Thanks for your words! Together we go.

Jenna - Thank you, dear. And you're right, too. No reason to feel any less a writer. I just need to keep at it!

Melanie - This, too, is true. Maybe there still is a perfect match out there... And good call on the mocha! ;)

Joanne - I hadn't thought of that at all! Hmm. Definitely something to consider. Thanks so much for the idea! ...Although, if they'd liked it enough, would they have just flat-out asked me to make edits? I don't know.

WendyCinNYC said...

I'm sorry about the rejection. That stinks.

I would most certainly do the Christian publishing route if I were you. Keep submitting!

I know someone who queried almost 200 agents. It was looking bleak for a long while, but when she finally got interest, she had 4 great agents from which to choose.

Jen said...

Ah, Janna, I'm sorry about the rejection letter. *hugs*

I know what you mean about not feeling validated, and it's a tough feeling. BUT. They requested that full, so they saw potential. It just turns out that it wasn't right for them. So I agree with everyone else who said try other markets. Send it out everywhere, and just keep trudging.

Have another hug and some chocolate.

Anonymous said...

((Janna))). I can't even begin to tell you how many times I thought I was near the end--ready to give up. Don't!! You've got to Believe!

Because Fear kills creativity. It doesn't have to be a great or overwhelming fear, just enough to make belief murky, kinda like a drop of raw sewage added to a gallon of pure spring water, fear stifles us; but belief clears us and frees the productive creativity in us.

Now take my used delvish spiked pradas, strap them on and start kickn' in some doors.

Barb Davis said...

Janna- Even though your dream has been postponed for a bit, it's a chance to grow as a writer. If I were you, I think I would take a deep breath, make need adjustments and send it to other markets. You will eventually realize your goal if you are determined and don't give up. You have what it takes, lady!!! Blessings.

Melissa Amateis said...

Well darn it anyway. Hugs on the rejection. Been there and done that too many times. Sigh. I don't know if it ever gets any easier, either.

But Angie is right - it IS a blessing - in more ways than one. You got constructive criticism instead of just a generic cover letter saying, "Thanks but no thanks" and you also discovered that this isn't the right publisher for your novel. Lots of good can come out of this.

But you're right - gotta keep on going and writing and praying and dreaming!

Anonymous said...

Rejection. It never gets any better. But Janna, think of it as a badge of honor. Much like a purple heart in the military, you don't want to get hurt (get a rejection) but that fact that you have it says that you made a brilliant effort. That's more than a lot of people can say. So pin your badge of honor up and remember that if we never try we will always fail.

Don't let it depress you. Rejection is a part of the writing process just like research or editing(ugg, do I hate editing). Like everyone else said, try other publishers (christian publishing houses would be a good place to start). Make it into a game even. How many rejection slips does it take to wallpaper your office (or even just a wall)? What's the highest number of rejection letters you can get before it's published. The person with the highest number of rejection letters win.

Janna, we believe in you.

Janna Leadbetter said...

Wendy - Wow! 200 agents?! That's incredible. And uplifting!

Jen - Thank you. I so appreciate your constant support. *hug*

Kimmi - Wow! Those sound like amazing heels! ROFL

Barbara - The encouragement you all give me serves as great motivation for determination. Thank you for your message!

Melissa - It's tough, but you all are making it so much easier. Thank you!

Cel - Your words are so touching - especially there at the end. I can't even tell you how much. Thank you so very much.

Janet said...

Oh definitely keep trying. And keep on with your new WIP. That's probably the best therapy.

Jewel Allen said...

Oh Janna, hugs to you, pal. I know how disappointing this must be, but don't ever give up on this dream!! Don't change a thing unless you send it out a little more and you are getting similar feedback.

Good luck and keep on going!

Natasha Fondren said...

Well, my comment on this was ridiculously long so I deleted it. I've done lots of thinking about this issue, though. :-)

Besides all that, Christianity sounds like something you hold close to your heart. Those things we hold dear are almost always the best things to write about.

Stonefox said...

Janna, I can only imagine how badly it feels right now. It sounds like you got some good feed back, though, which is great.

I have heard so many downers about the publishing market not buying manuscripts because of the economy. Personally, I think it has to have affected the number of manuscripts they are buying, and this is a factor.

I find it funny that they said no to the "Christian" part and then no to the stalker part? Doesn't make much sense. In any case, you are right to keep on going. Take a break over the holidays and then see if you have any fresh perspective on where to go with it.

I am really excited for you! I think it is awesome that you have come this far!! You will make it! And I can't wait to read your book when you do.

Janna Leadbetter said...

Janet - You may indeed be right, lady, and that's just what I plan to do! :)

Jewel - I think I can, I think I can... Thank you!

Spy - I must admit, I'm incredibly curious about your ridiculously long comment. ;) Writing about what's close to our heart? I believe I agree. :)

Stonefox (AKA Heidi) - Thank you so much for your kind words. And I know this is true, that the economy affects mss being bought. Makes it even more stressful!

Alicia The Snowflake said...

How frustrating! I wish I had some great advice, but I don't Just keep trying! You'll get there! And you're can't give up on you're dream!

BTW, It's nice to "meet" you!

Janna Leadbetter said...

Welcome, Alicia! I appreciate your positive words. :)

Joshua said...

sounds like we need to wip out the brownies, I'll make some from scratch just for you cuz.

Anonymous said...

*Arrives late*
((hugs for you)) I think it says a lot that they wrote so much! I think this was a huge step towards publication, and I know you are not far from the dream. ((extra hugs!))

Janna Leadbetter said...

Yes, Josh. Yes! ;)

Turkey - Your faith in me means a lot!

Kelly said...

I'm late-- I know, but I couldn't not leave a post. Because while you are no longer a writer being considered, you are a writer who has been considered. And that is still such an accomplishment.

Janna Leadbetter said...

Such sweet words, Kelly. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for being so late to the party. I'm just catching up now (I'm the biggest slacker). Don't let this get you down, as everyone has said it's the first step and you have a lot ahead of you. There's tons of markets out there and you're no less a writer for a rejection. Remember even the superstar authors had tons of rejections.

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