Sunday, August 8, 2010
Code Blue is my debut novel, the first of a three-book series, and I'm thrilled at this opportunity, but there are bound to be some of you who are thinking, "Why him? Why not me?" Honestly, I've thought that many times as well. Let me offer a bit of explanation and a word of encouragement.
First, the explanation. I've paid my dues and done my homework. I've been to conferences and been mentored by some of the best writers around, including James Scott Bell. I've read book after book on writing--right now I'm looking at a bookshelf that contains more than twenty-five books on the craft, and there's no dust on any of them. I've practiced the art of what Anne Lamott calls keeping your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard, even when I didn't want to.
That brings me to the second point. I persisted. It might interest you that it's taken me a bit less than five years to become an "overnight success" and sign this contract. I submitted the initial query for my first novel in the summer of 2004. That first novel garnered ten rejections. I revised it extensively, reworked it meticulously, and tried again. This time I got thirteen rejections. My second novel was rejected seven times, including a couple of revisions. My third novel was so bad that my (then) agent rejected it as not good enough to send out. My fourth novel was rejected ten times, and I figured that was enough. By that time I'd been writing for almost four years and, although I'd had a non-fiction book published and my work had appeared numerous times in periodicals, I felt like I wasn't cut out to be a novelist. So I ended my representation agreement with my agent and stopped writing.
Then editor-turned-agent Rachelle Gardner had a contest on her blog, offering a prize for the best first line for a novel. I dashed off one and was totally surprised when I saw that I'd won with the line “Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled up everything.” The prize was a critique of the first several pages of a work-in-progress, so I sent Rachelle the first scene of my latest novel--the one that had been rejected ten times. Her comment was, "Send me something that needs editing." One thing led to another, and I submitted a query about representation. She accepted me, and I got back to writing.
But the happy ending didn't come yet. There were three rejections before Rachelle pitched the work to Barbara Scott, the new chief fiction editor for Abingdon Press. About six weeks later I got the call from Rachelle: "You've sold your first novel." It was wonderful, but the point of all this is that, before that call came, I'd written four novels (five counting totally reworking number one) over a period of over four years, been rejected more than forty times, and completely quit writing once!
So, to my colleagues who haven't received that phone call yet, my hope is that you won't give up. Your time may come yet. I’m pulling for you.