by K. Maze
The alternate title for this post could have been "How I Found My Publisher Through Rejection."
In 2015 I wrote a YA Thriller focused around the kidnapping of teen characters involved in the theater. I researched thoroughly, interviewed detectives, and hired an editor who helped me through to the end. I queried and waited and heard…. Crickets.
Kind editors and agents responded with honest feedback or simply said it wasn’t for them. I analyzed and discovered ways to ‘fix’ the novel: rewrite the first five pages, fix weak plot holes, revise characters to enhance the premise and elevate the intrigue. But I couldn’t.
Completing the novel got me across the finish line, but it didn’t mean my novel was done. For over a year, I had spent my writing mojo in some very dark territory and I didn’t have the motivation to dig into it more. The only shelf that manuscript would sit on is in my closet.
But I couldn’t give up on writing, right?
Advice that Helped Me Start Writing Again
1. Write the Book You Want to Read.. The market will be there when you write to your authentic self.
I wanted to take a break, but I feared I would slip out of my hard earned writing habits, so I paused and played with stories for a few weeks instead. I took the “What if…?” to extremes and created crazy characters I could toss into impossible missions.
My original novel had taken over a year to write. I wanted to learn how to craft compelling story structure and character arcs, and decided to use shorter works for these lessons.
2. Be Willing to Take Risks and Try Something Different. Short stories are good testing grounds for experimenting with genre and style.
My research on strong young heroines led me to Sex in the City. During some What-if story gymnastics, a character a lot like Carrie Bradshaw saved the world from imminent doom.
Apparently going from dark thriller to dystopian end-of-the-world was all the lightening up I needed to recapture my inspiration!
That What-if became the catalyst for IMPACT, where a young journalist in the near future grappled with an incoming asteroid that dared to interfere with her career. After writing and editing the novella, I discovered that sci-fi novellas have a very active market. In other words, this new story had a higher chance for publication.
3. Find the Market that Represents Your Work.
Rather than "writing to the market," find the market that fits your work’s strong points and sell to those unique strengths. My book passes the Bechdel Test, but is also a less common combination of sci-fi and light romance.
NOTE: The usual criteria of the Bechdel Test are (1) that at least two women are featured, (2) that these women talk to each other, and (3) that they discuss something other than a man.
I found nearly twenty avenues for my story, reviewed their guidelines and story samples and crafted query letters highlighting the aspects of my book that matched their request.
Over the next six months, rejections trickled in. But in the fall of 2018, I received a rejection that included an offer -- to forward my work to another editor. That editor was closed to submissions but she absolutely published speculative short fiction, including sci-fi, with strong character driven plots featuring strong female protagonists. (Similar to mine!)
In January of 2019, that editor made me an offer. Once the news sank in, I sent celebratory messages to my writer friends and got a lawyer to look over the contract.
Sometimes success looks completely different from your original plan. Perseverance and research helped me achieve this dream, but so did the following:
- Learning craft and continuing to write.
- Follow the publishers guidelines and sending them my best work.
- Research the market to find the best fit for my work.
- Trusting the process, while writing what you want to write.
- And the most important lesson of all...
What encouragement would you send to your early writer self? What was your route into the publishing world? Are you still knocking on doors? Tell us your tips and advice below so we can build up our writing community!
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Kris Maze has worked in education for 25 years and writes for various publications including Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish and Writers in the Storm. Her first YA Science fiction book, IMPACT, arrives in June 2020 and is published through Aurelia Leo.
A recovering grammarian and hopeless wanderer, Kris enjoys reading, playing violin and piano, and spending time outdoors with her fur babies and family. She also ponders the wisdom of Bob Ross.
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Trapped underground with a mysterious scientist named Edison and his chess master AI, can Nala Nightingale find the will to live and to love in a dystopian future?
To find out more about IMPACT, click here.