Scary Stuff, Submitting…

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to post about my journey toward submitting a completed manuscript. Now that I have a shiny, revised, edited-out-the-yang-yang novel, I’m ready to begin. But to tell the truth of this journey I have to take it back about nine months. *And in case you can’t hear it, there’s that crazy harp music playing–we’re going back in time people–play along*

Nine months ago, my laptop was uber heavy with five, count ’em five, completed manuscripts. But the stories were just sitting there as I jumped into yet another story and began writing a novella. On the advice of a friend, I joined a little site called Romance Divas and my entire world changed. I knew that my ultimate goal with these works was publication. I wasn’t just writing just stories, I had belted out novels over one-hundred thousand words in length. They needed to be freed to the world and give some relief to my uber heavy laptop.

The problem? I had no idea how to go about this process. Here’s the part where I tell you I have a family and a full-time job. My days are and have been for years now, filled with work, work, work and then a little more work. What time was left, or what time I could manage to steal at the EDJ, was filled with getting the words down on my stories. The rest of the time was filled with sleep. It’s still this way for me to a degree, though I have gotten better at time management. But I digress.

Let’s recap: Five completed manuscripts, more writing occurring, uber heavy laptop, work, work, work, no knowledge how to get my stuff viewed, joined Romance Divas. Okay, review over.

I joined RD, jumped into the threads on their amazing forum and began to pick up on all the ways I was deficient in the knowledge I needed to attain my goal of publication. I discovered a critique partner is a great thing. Since I’m the only one who had ever read my stuff, it was vital to have the feedback of another writer. I lucked into Linda, my CP, and then later I lucked into an amazing program offered by RD–the Mentor Program.

Linda helped me realize that my story was good, but my craft, the actual art of writing, was lacking. The bones were there, but I needed knowledge in order to cover those bones with flesh, give that flesh a heart and make that completed work dance a jig at my command. She gave me what I needed: the truth. Yes, my stuff was a good beginning, but it wasn’t strong enough to submit. I had to work on my craft, hone it and then submit.

Here’s the thing:  I had gotten ahead of myself prior to lucking into Linda. When I first joined Divas I read a few threads that led to agents and publishing houses. I looked the agents and houses up and proceeded to submit, yes, I said ‘submit’, my completely inferior, unpolished work to them. I submitted to five different agents–every one rejected me. Not just rejected, but form rejected. No feedback…nothing but “No.” It hurt.

See, I thought my writing was phenomenal; right up until Linda told me it was strong, but not good enough. I loved going back and reading my own stories, they rocked, kicked arse, all of that. What was she seeing that I wasn’t? I’ll admit to a bit of resistance when she gave me the dreaded truth. She delivered it so very softly, she was so freaking kind, but it was painful nonetheless. My resistance consisted of a few carefully worded suggestions, all unspoken mind you, as to what she could do with her truth. Then I had to stop and reevaluate.

The bottom line: I had read some of Lin’s stuff. She was really good. I compared her completed stuff to mine {not the stories or the voice themselves, rather the quality of the writing} and, well, let’s just say inferior doesn’t really cover it. I had to suck it up. I had to put aside my own personal feelings and insecurities and I had to wallow in the beautiful truth she’d given me. I took heart in what she said, “You have good stuff here.” I picked up my toys, but instead of going home, I rearranged them, sat my happy arse back down and began to play again.

I’m stubborn. I’m sure my family would say it’s to a fault. Yet, this is the one thing that I feel sure will carry me toward success. I loved/love to write. and determined that not one damn thing was going to keep me from doing that and doing it well. Her words lit a fire under me and I began to thirst for the knowledge she’d said I needed to become a top-notch writer.

And this thirst led me to the Mentor Program on RD. A three-month intense program where writers who want to learn can do so from other writers who have achieved success in their field or genre. At this point in the game, I had submitted one final time with the ‘before RETRIEVAL’, we’ll call it that because it’s the same story now that it was then, only bettah baby :). I had submitted to Carina Press.

Yes, yes, I know, what was I thinking? I’m not real sure and there’s a truth for you. I just wanted to get my stuff out there, hit it on a wing and a prayer maybe? Who the heck knows? There was an open call by Angela James and I responded. Hindsight’s always twenty-twenty and I still wince a bit when I think of hitting the send button on that email to her.

Shortly after, I began the mentor program and was paired with David Bridger. You’ve heard me rave about him in previous posts. The bald truth is, he’s nothing short of awesome. I couldn’t have been paired with a better writer, a better person. If the success I’m wishing and working toward ever comes, a lot of it will be due to his influence on my craft. Another truth is this: I had no craft per se until he guided me and directed me toward it. I put words down on paper, nothing more. He led me to water and I drank like a woman who’d been in the desert for thirty years. He gave me link upon link to visit about voice, style, deep third POV and so many more things that are vital when a writer sits down to craft and mold a work of words.

Then he led me to a little workshop called, Before You Hit Send. And irony of all ironies, guess whose workshop it was? Wince with me now… Angela James. The same editor I’d submitted ‘before RETRIEVAL’ to prior to entering the mentor program. I scrambled, could I withdraw my submission? David said, “Yes, yes, do!” So I tapped out an email and wonder of wonders, Mrs. James responded with “Of course” and “Feel free to submit when you’ve revised.” (I’m praying she never read the first submission) I was elated. I now had an opportunity to revise and edit my work with the knowledge that I’d gained from Linda, David and Ms. James herself through B4YHS.

The journey took me through three months in the mentor program with ObiWan Bridger. He’s truly the ObiWan of writing, at least to me. I gained a load of knowledge, remembered things I’d lost over the almost twenty since college–folks, I not only found my craft, I honed the hell out of it. I’m still honing it because I’ll never be perfect. That’s a joy to me. If the learning ever stops, I’ll dry up and so will my writing.

So here I am now. The mentor program is finished. RETRIEVAL is finished. It’s a product of which I’m infinitely proud. It’s the same as ‘before RETRIEVAL’ only much, much better. And the good news? I’m submitting again.

I submitted to one agent. Start of small is my motto. Not the agent, but the number. I’ve been rejected. No need to gasp. It didn’t even sting. Because I have a product I’m proud of, one agent’s pass is another agent/editor’s opportunity. I’m moving forward and one day, hopefully really soon, I’ll be able to update you with a post that says: I DID IT!!

This is what I’m left with: whatever happens to you as a writer, discover the craft of writing. Hone it, sharpen it and force it to cut like a scythe for you. Oh, and never, ever give up. Rejection is another form of encouragement. One’s loss is another’s gain. Plug and plod away and never stop writing. Never give up.

I’m wishing all who read this WORDS. Happy writing and reading. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Scary Stuff, Submitting…

  1. Happy writing to you too. And Lea just for the record… you’re pretty amazing yourself. Very few people make it in this biz without learning to take some knocks. It’s part of the territory. 😉

    • That’s coming from the absolute best CP in the world. *psst* she’s also a pretty darn good cheerleader and friend. Thanks Lin. Hugs.

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