The time I got my teeth kicked in

This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series My writing journey

The following is gore-free

The weekend before my second LDStorymakers Conference, I stared into the mirror and asked myself the hard questions. I was facing my second conference in a row with the same manuscript, and nothing else to show for it. Was this storyline (an LDS FBI agent who has to go undercover as a Catholic priest) simply too controversial/silly/out there for these regional/LDS publishers to touch with a ten-foot pole? Had I wasted the last year on a book that will never, ever sell? Was this even the direction I want my career to go?

I didn’t have any answers.

At the conference, I was stunned—STUNNED—when my first chapter took first place in the Mystery/Suspense category. A friend happened to be coordinating the contest, and she later told me I’d been a very strong contender for the overall prize, too. That would have been cool, but no cooler or more useful than the prize I ended up with: a get-out-of-the-slush-pile-free card to two regional/LDS publishers, my exact market.

But that sweet little tidbit was small consolation. Immediately after the prizes were announced, I was sitting at my table, still shaking with excitement, when one of the editors I was supposed to submit to with my GOOTSPF card sought me out.

This editor had read and loved my first chapter so much that she looked up my rejected manuscript in their system. She dug out the digital copy and read it. She loved several aspects of the novel—the plot idea, the Irish culture incorporated, the characters.

And then, although she was truly acting out of the kindness of her heart and concern for me, she kicked my teeth in.

“Don’t submit that manuscript.”

Okay. Yeah. The manuscript was rejected, for good reasons, and I knew why. I tried to explain that I’d really revamped the manuscript based on the feedback, and the new first chapter reflected those changes.

changes from first sub to storymakers
One page from the first chapter, showing the changes from the original submitted version up to the version right before this conference.

Eventually, the editor hesitantly said she’d like to see the revised version. But it definitely seemed like she didn’t want me to waste my GOOTSPF card on that book.

My confidence was completely shot. That first place certificate, and even my friend’s news about the overall award, felt like the booby prize. I spend the last sessions of the conference sitting in classes, trying not to text my husband (really bad manners and he had no reception anyway), and fighting back tears.

Those questions I’d asked myself before the conference now had answers. And they weren’t the ones I wanted to hear.

However, I am a very contrary person. It didn’t take very long for my brain to morph that into a challenge. I was going to make this book COMPLETELY IRRESISTIBLE. I’d make it sparkle so bright they’d need sunglasses to open the attachment. I’d make it perfect.

I was going to need more secret sauce.

What do you think? Have you ever had the jaws of defeat chomp down on your victory? How do you bounce back after a disappointment? Come share!

Series NavigationDiscovering the secret sauceThe best of times, the worst of times

One thought on “The time I got my teeth kicked in”

  1. A big bag of M&Ms helps for the first day, then crawl into a nice, new, comfy manuscript and work on it with the: You’ll-regret-rejecting-me! attitude. When you get to the point where your self-defense mechanism has had a chance to settle down, (It’s the one that kicks in when someone picks on “your baby.”) take an honest look at your MS and see if the criticism it has received has merit. Then tackle the picked-on-baby with the same You’ll-regret attitude. Flash in the face of those who doubt you your determination and passion for the writing you love. Remain true to yourself and never give up!

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