Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Bumpy, Humbling, and Exhilarating Slog toward Publication

November 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Craft, Encouragement

by Elizabeth Camden

My road to publication was long and bumpy.  I daydreamed about my first manuscript for years before I got up the courage to start writing.  I honed and polished it to a diamond-bright shine.  It was exactly the kind of novel I adored reading and I considered it a masterpiece.  I sent it off to a handful of top agents and checked my mailbox daily, prepared to select from among the best who offered.  When no offers came, I was stunned.

Was it possible my query was reviewed by a secretary?  Or an intern too green to spot blazing talent?  Or maybe you had to know someone to get your foot in the door.  It wasn’t my writing that was holding me back, it was “the system.”   To make a long story short…this kind of thinking went on for a couple of years.

After more rejections than I can count, I came to accept that these excuses were not getting me any closer to landing an agent.  I swallowed hard, did a gut check, and started from scratch.  I read voraciously.  I read the classics, genre literature, memoirs, anything that exposed me to writing that was fresh, original, and sparkly.  I also read dozens of books about the writing craft to learn the ropes and spot some of my problems.

And you know that manuscript I thought was a gleaming diamond?  I realized it wasn’t that great.  Not even worth revising.  I ditched it, and when I completed a new manuscript there was a marked shift in the reactions I received from agents.  My rejection notes got more flattering, but still no offer.  Rewind and repeat this scenario for the next several manuscripts.

Then came phase three of my writing life.  I was convinced I was awful.  I simply did not have enough talent and I needed to let go of this irrational dream to ever write a novel.

But the thing was, I liked writing.  I liked everything about it and didn’t want to quit, even if no one ever read my work.  That gave me the freedom to be a little more risky in the type of manuscript I submitted to agents.  I played with blending genres and daring characterizations.  This was when I finally found my voice and things took off for me…. and it took off fast.  I think it may have been a willingness to critically assess my work and take some strategic risks in stretching the genre that finally bumped me up to the next level.

My early manuscripts will never see the light of day.  They don’t deserve to, but they taught me how to be a writer.  The best advice I can give is to learn how to critically assess your work.  If a manuscript does not sell, set it aside and try something new.  Be brave.  Play with different styles, settings, maybe even genres.  This is how you will find your voice.  Good Luck!

Elizabeth Camden’s Stats:

Manuscripts that will Never see the Light of Day: Five

Years from Beginning to Write Until Publication: Six

Experience of Seeing her First Book in Print: Priceless

Elizabeth’s third book: Against the Tide

Boston of 1891 is a city of hope and ambition, where mariners, merchants, and dreamers thrive in the cobblestone streets of America’s most historic city. Within the harbor of Boston’s naval shipyard, Lydia Pallas has become a trusted assistant to an Admiral in the U.S. Navy. Fluent in seven languages, she spends her days translating documents from all over the world.

Lydia’s remarkable language skills bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man on a quest to rid the world of the scourge of opium. Only Lydia has the rare combination of language skills and courage he needs to advance his cause. A man as coolly analytical as he is relentless, Bane never bargained on falling in love with Lydia. As he battles the bittersweet love that grows between them, Bane’s mission will take Lydia away from everything—and everyone—she ever held dear.

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