Since this is Marie’s release week, and there are all of these awesome “writer’s journey” vibes in the air, I thought I would share a little bit of my own journey with everyone today. Nope, I’m not actually going to talk about how Call of the Highland Moon came to be. I’ve been thinking more about the failure that led to my success, making it less of a failure and more of a stepping stone.
Yes, I’m speaking of my first manuscript. The one buried along with all of its rejection letters in a big box at the back of my closet.
This story is going to sound familiar to a lot of you, probably. When I finally decided to take the plunge and try to get published, I wanted very badly to have a completed, utterly fabulous manuscript in hand to get started on my inevitable conquering of the literary world. I mean, obviously since I had come to this momentous decision, the rest of the world would get right on board the Kendra train and anoint me the next Sherrilyn Kenyon, right? Yeah, yeah, insert hysterical laughter here. I know. Hubris isn’t really one of my great failings, but I do remember thinking pretty highly of my (purple) pen. In my defense, I was less confident than just stupidly naïve about The Way Things Are.
Anyway, tucked away in the remote reaches of the Nevada high desert, I wrote my little heart out. I was on fire. I was channeling Nora Roberts. I was clinging tenuously to sanity, having been traumatized by both the volume and apparent evil sentience of the tumbleweed that chased me as I dropped off the kids at school every day. And after a few months, I had 450 pages of literary perfection, a fantasy romance I called Heart of Fire.
I know. Totally killed any chance of perfection right off with the name. Got it.
So I printed my fantasy romance opus out. Then I just sat and gazed at the enormous stack of computer paper in wonder. I couldn’t believe that all of that had actually come out of my head! Looking back, that was, actually, one of the best moments I’ve yet experienced in my career as a writer so far: seeing my story, the sheer, undeniable mass of it, and realizing that I could do this. I could write a book. I’d always wondered, and now look, I had! Never mind that the tale had a sketchily-drawn, cardboard bad guy, or that one of my characters bore a marked resemblance to Hagrid. I’d written my romance novel. I had climbed the mountain. I pretty much rocked.
If only the numerous agents I queried had agreed. But they didn’t, even though the few (it’s only ever a few) personal, non-form letter rejections I got (not to mention the three requests for a partial!) were very complimentary on my style and took more issue with the story itself than the quality of my writing, which was encouraging when I could see the forest for the trees again. But those first rejections hurt. I cried a lot and felt like a failure. Still, even though the letters kept trickling in, I eventually realized that I hated not writing more than I hated the rejections. I also began to realize that even though this story, much as I loved it, was not perfect, and was not going to make it…I was going to try again.
There came a day, after a very late “Dear Author” letter blew in from parts unknown, that I knew it was time. I took my beautiful stack o’ Heart of Fire, put it in a box that fit it just right, tucked in all of the rejections and requests it had garnered, and then closed it up and put it away. I knew it might be a long time before I could read it dispassionately (still haven’t tried!), but I also knew that I shouldn’t forget what this book had given me. This was my learning book. It taught me how to make a villain, how to balance story and character interaction. It taught me how to write a love scene! And even now, knowing how not-great it was, I do know that Heart of Fire had its good moments, too. There was certainly room for them…wow, was that manuscript long.
I didn’t play Taps for it when I put it away. I simply did what has by now become second nature, both routine and need rather than impulse: I sat down and began again, determined to do it better this time, to do it right. I’m not saying I’ve gotten it right yet, but I’m definitely further along than I was back then!
So that’s my story of the failure that turned out to be not so much of a failure, but just a beginning that helped me get published. My first book may be kinda bad…but I still owe it a lot.
What about all of you? Ever find that a failure was a blessing in disguise to lead you to bigger and better things?