It’s the first Wednesday of the month: time to meet with my fellow writers in
I’m beginning to feel like a real, honest-to-God writer these days. And do you know why? The answer is: Rejection. No writer worth her salts could ever call herself so without receiving an array of rejections for her work. And I’ve received quite a few. At first it was just rejections of my query, but then, after receiving a good number of requests, it’s become a rejection of those, too.
The first time I had my full manuscript rejected, it nearly destroyed me. I have to laugh about it now because I took it to the chin, and rather hard, too. I spent that first evening commiserating with my new friend, Silver Patron. Sure, he made me laugh and even forget for a while, but I vowed we wouldn’t see each other again until I somehow managed to snag an agent. That was nearly a year ago, and I’ve kept my promise, though it hasn’t always been easy. But one thing rejection has done for me is make me tough. I barely even feel it now.
This has come in handy in the last few weeks. After waiting over six months, I finally heard back from an agent who politely and respectfully said no to my full. That was followed immediately by another of the same. Well, almost the same. It wasn’t an agent this time, but rather an editor who had read my first fifty pages, and three days later, quite excitedly I might add, requested my full, making sure to inform me how much she and her team were enjoying my story.
I took that request and the excitement that accompanied it with a huge grain of salt. The publisher was brand-spanking new and published mostly romance, but they were looking for thrillers and mine had them all worked up. The great part was that she didn’t make me wait. I heard back in less than two weeks. But you already know how this story ends. She told me I definitely had a talent for writing and that making the final decision about my manuscript was truly a hard one for them, but in the end, it wasn’t a good fit.
She’s promised to go over with me all the deciding factors in a detailed email, but it came down to what I’ve always known would be a difficult sell: My story is just too provocative.
Now, some might think this is a good thing, but, as I’ve written here before, my lead male character, who falls into unbearable depression following the violent death of his wife, does something shamefully contemptible, and, as we all know, in fiction, the truly despicable things are left to the bad guy, not the good. But, at least for me, life is not simple shades of black and white. There are variables of grey to both sides of the coin. True, my character is flawed, but the entire message, the very theme of the story, is forgiveness. So while I am excited to read what the editor thinks will help make my story more marketable, I’m not sure how far I’m willing to go to make it so, even though she said she’s willing to reread it afterwards.
Yes, I am all for compromise, but, as my best friend, writing soul mate, and most awesome critique partner, Lisa L. Regan, has said numerous times, the character cannot fully appreciate or realize just how far he’s fallen—how far removed he is from the man he used to be—until he crosses completely over to the dark side. And he cannot do that without doing that “terrible awful thing” no matter how terrible awful it is. And believe me, it is. It’s terrible awful
But this is a story of hard-fought redemption, and I didn’t start off making him a bad guy. Like I said, he’s flawed, but his flaw is that, in his quest of lawful duty, he doesn’t actually see his flaw. He thinks he’s always right, always on track, always perfect. So to fall so far from grace is unendurable for him. And while he’s desperately fighting the bad guys to save the woman he’s wounded and jeopardized, he’s also battling the internal demons he’s unleashed within himself.
How do I compromise on that?
So anyway, now I know, rejections won’t kill me. They don’t bowl me over anymore. I barely feel them. But it’s not so much that I’m scarred and therefore tougher. It’s more like I believe in my story. I trust its message. It may be too provocative for agents and publishers of commercial fiction at the moment. Hell, it might be too provocative for future audiences, too, but, having gone through a similar experience, writing this story was cathartic and has taught me exactly what I’m trying to express in the story: to forgive.
And I just can’t compromise on that, because the integrity of that message is much more important than the marketability of the story.