When many of us began writing, we probably experienced moments of thinking our work would surely gain the attention of people in the industry. They’d be swept up in our story and call it genius. After all, we loved it—they would too! But, with time we learned … This Fortifying Friday, we’re pleased to have author Dorothy Mays (aka Elizabeth Camden) as our guest. Enjoy as she shares words of wisdom and her own humbling journey to publication.
My Bumpy, Humbling, and
Exhilarating Slog toward Publication
by Elizabeth Camden
I daydreamed about my first manuscript for years before I got up the courage to start writing. I put a lot of work into honing and polishing it to a diamond-bright shine. It was exactly the kind of novel I liked to read, and I figured it would be snapped right up. 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. 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.
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 was too blind to spot my problems 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 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. In short, I found my Voice.
I fall into the “edgy inspirational” category. I write turbulent romances with love, betrayal, and heartbreak, all punctuated with periods of soaring joy and a dash of mystery. It is light years different (and hopefully, better!) than the timid manuscripts I initially wrote.
So my advice to aspiring writers who are starting to get discouraged: Be really, really honest about your manuscripts. Set the ones that aren’t working aside and try something new. Be brave. Play with different styles, settings, even genres. This is how you will find your voice. Publishers are desperate to find a new, distinctive writer who can be the next Big Thing. As hard as those rejection letters are, I am grateful that I had those additional years of writing so that I had a chance to develop a distinctive voice. I have no idea if my books will be successful….but I can confidently assert they are different!
Elizabeth Camden is a research librarian at a small college in Florida. Her first novel, The Lady of Bolton Hill, was just released by Bethany House. She blogs incessantly about the romance genre (in novels, movies, real life, etc.) at http://elizabethcamden.com/blog. Since she is a librarian, she also posts lots of pictures of mouth-watering libraries. Please swing by for a peek!