Nearly five weeks ago, I battled nerves and self-doubt but finally managed to hit send on my manuscript submissions to the editors I pitched to at the RWA Conference at the end of August. A few days after that, I participated in a Twitter pitch contest — an attempt to pitch your manuscript in 140 characters, not an easy task I might add! If the publisher running the contest “favourites” your pitch, you are able to submit it to them and avoid the “slush pile”. My pitch was “favourited” and so I submitted to a third publisher. Since then, I have received rejections from my first two submissions and am waiting on the third.
The first rejection did not beat around the bush. It read along the lines of “thank you for submitting your manuscript. Unfortunately we will not be accepting it for publication and this is why…” I was then given three very clear reasons why it wasn’t being accepted. In short, it had to do with point of view, exposition and character development.
Now, I’ll admit there was a slight deflation when the word “unfortunately” jumped out at me and started flashing neon, but to be honest, it wasn’t wholly unexpected. I’ve only been writing for two years and I’m under no illusions that I’m a grand master in the running for a Nobel Prize in Literature. I was, however, totally wrapt with the feedback I was given, especially since learning that it’s not so common and should be considered an indication that the editor sees potential. I’m so incredibly grateful to be given professional advice on how to improve the manuscript as I was at quite a loss on how to do this prior to submission.
The second rejection was not quite so comprehensive, though the editor was very encouraging, saying I had “a very assured style that is super engaging and fun and lively to read”. Her reason for passing on the manuscript was that their rural romance list has reached saturation point. A valid reason to reject, particularly if there’s still room for improvement.
Granted, there’s still one publisher to hear from, though I promise not to be completely depressed if it is also a rejection. Since finishing the manuscript, I’ve written a novella (A Healing Hand) and two short stories and it is blindingly obvious to me that my writing is improving. What I can promise, is that I’ll be revisiting the manuscript and ruthlessly reworking it.
So, to my readers, my apologies…you’ll be waiting a bit longer to get your hands on A Place to Belong.
And to my fellow aspiring authors, if there’s one piece of advice I can give if you’re preparing your first submissions, it would be to remember that it takes time to hone your craft and learn to be a good writer. You can’t wake up one morning and be a brilliant brain surgeon and the same goes for being a writer. Does this mean you don’t submit? No. But don’t be precious. Take the advice of professional editors on board and learn to be objective about your work. Be proactive: take courses, network with other authors, ask questions and learn to be a better writer. The teacher in me just has to say, take responsibility for your own learning! No doubt, the hard work will pay off in the end.