Something really amazing happened today, and I want to shout it from the rooftops. Part of that is because I'm excited. Really, really excited. But another part of it is that I want my experience to perhaps be encouraging for other people.
About three years ago, maybe more, I finished a middle grade trilogy and started a new book. It was a young adult novel, part mystery, part fantasy, and part romance.
Twice every day, I drive past an old tobacco barn. You see them frequently out in rural Tennessee. For some reason, it intrigued me, and I started to ask questions. As I answered those "what if" questions, a story about a dryad began to take shape.
I gave it everything I had--really stretching myself to make it my best work. I read and researched writing techniques and plot structure. And then I poured my soul into the words. It was inspired by the magnificent beauty of rural Tennessee: the stunning dogwood trees, the endless green, and the mysterious, dilapidated tobacco barns dotting the landscape.
I worked and worked and worked. I worked to create a distinct and unique magical world, huddled next to our own. I worked on weaving a story from the present with one from the past. I worked on using natural imagery, on creating two distinct, authentic voices for the characters, who narrate the book. I started sending out query letters to various agents. I had some encouraging responses, but ultimately, nothing panned out.
I could go on and on, but the short version of the story is this: for three years I have worked on this book. Writing and rewriting. Revising. Polishing. And doing it all again. And, during that time, lots and lots of rejection.
You start to question yourself. You wonder if it's worth it. You wonder if you are crazy for continuing. Are you delusional? Are you being selfish to take the time away from your family? It has been a while since my last book was published. That started to freak me out. You don't want to drop of the radar screen completely. All these thoughts, lots of different forms of self-doubt. I know I'm not the only who has felt that way before.
Plus, through this all, there were parts of the book I knew were not quite right. I loved the story, but there were some pacing issues, and I just couldn't make them work--that was part of the reason for so many drafts. It's a complicated story, involving stories set both in the present and the past. So, that led to more self-doubt.
This fall, I heard back from the last agent. She had requested the full manuscript during the summer, and I was ecstatic. She wrote me a very nice email passing on the project.
I was devastated and decided that this story just wouldn't work. It had beaten me. So I decided to put it away forever. That seemed the obvious thing to do, but I felt so beaten and so discouraged.
A wise friend of mine (who had read one of the first drafts) refused to let me do this. She told me that there were readers out there who would enjoy my book. She pushed me to explore various options--and told me about KindleScout.
I went back to work. I got new people to read and critique. No one person solved the problems, but together, they helped me see what I needed to fix and how to do that.
I went out on a limb and hired a cover designer (who was AMAZING). I spent my entire Christmas break proof-reading and my daughter did the same.
And then I spent a month begging everyone in my address book and everyone in reach of my social media to vote for my book on KindleScout. (Let me stop here to give a big thank you to everyone who voted and who was kind enough to help me spread the word).
Well, today I got a check from Amazon. A significant advance against future royalties.
I got paid for my book.
I got paid for my book!
It's hard to express the kind of validation that brings. A few weeks ago, when my book was chosen, I spoke with someone from Amazon. She told me what they had liked about it--and gave me specific feedback on all the things they enjoyed. The blending of different genres. The vivid imagery and smooth prose. The distinct character voices. The mixing of the present and the past. The mythical world.
My book, my beloved book, will be out in a few weeks. I understand how writing works. There are never any guarantees. It's entirely possible that no one will like it; that I won't make another dime on it. I may end up with a bunch of one-star reviews and hate mail. That's okay. It happens.
For now, I'm just rejoicing in the validation Amazon sent my bank account!
So, fellow writers: don't give up. Never, never, never give up. Keep going. Even when it's hard and you start to think you are crazy.
Miracles really do happen!
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