What Are You Willing to Do to Get Published?

September 6, 2011

“Sometimes you have to do the hard stuff to get the good stuff.”

I said the above to my son while we were discussing the demands of high school academics and athletics. He moaned and groaned but put his head down and got back to work. I returned to my computer where I’d been editing a manuscript that recently received a rejection, feeling smug until I realized I needed to take my own advice.

This manuscript has had an identity problem since my first round of editing. The original draft was a 75,000-word dark romance centered on a miserable, modern-day, Mr. Rochester-type Alpha male and a flaky, occult-loving, social boundary-less heroine. In the end, they overcame their extremist views to fall in love and find balance. The characters were flawed, the language foul and the sex explicit.

I didn’t know where the story fit as far as publication went. At the time, I was reading a lot of Harlequin Blaze books. I decided to cut the word count and submit to Blaze via So You Think You Can Write. As a result of the cut, the story changed, which is to say that more than the word count lightened. Still, I was smitten with the characters, so I endured the self-mutilation and put the manuscript forth for judgment.

The result? A rejection because my heroine was unlikeable. She’d slept with a married man. (She didn’t know he was married.) Upon further scrutiny I realized some things in the story, including the controversial relationship, made the heroine seem TSTL (too stupid to live). And what about my hero? Was he equally as unlikeable? I sent my concerns and the first chapter to my CP. She agreed.

I rewrote again, chopping more from the story, softening the hard edges that still remained. In the end, I felt good about the transformation, and I submitted the manuscript to a different publisher only to be disappointed after another long wait.

I read through the twice-rejected manuscript and noted both the end and the beginning were problematic for various reasons. The end was rushed and oversimplified. The beginning was slow. I rewrote the ending, but couldn’t find enough direction and inspiration to rewrite the beginning.

Days before the self-imposed deadline to send the manuscript off to another publisher, I noticed a problem with the story that couldn’t be ignored. The beginning had to be addressed. I groaned. I moaned. I procrastinated. In the meantime, I started a workshop on sexual tension.

There is nothing like a workshop to open your eyes to both the good and bad of your writing.

I think I’m a good writer, but in a world filled with good writers it’s the great ones who get the publishing careers of their dreams. The great ones do the hard stuff, like tackle editor-requested rewrites for a huge portion of a manuscript on a tight deadline. Even without an editor, I can see what will take my story from good to great, and it’s not pretty. But I don’t want to be pretty. I want to be published.

Sometimes I think I made a mistake when I first cut the word count and softened the edges. Maybe I should have believed in the original story more. Then again, maybe the original story wasn’t the best story. With the latter in mind, I’m keeping the characters and the basic plot, but I’m rewriting the manuscript. Crazy? Maybe. Therapeutic and educational? You bet. Hard? Absolutely. But you know what I say…

“Sometimes you have to do the hard stuff to get the good stuff.”

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3 Responses to “What Are You Willing to Do to Get Published?”


  1. This post resonated strongly with me. I submitted the very first manuscript I ever finished to SYTYCW and I received some encouraging feedback, but ultimately it was a no. They liked my H/H but didn’t like the beginning, so I fiddled with it and send it off to other publishers, only to receive a couple of rejections. So I grumbled, sulked, put it to one side and got on with other things. But it kept niggling away at me. The hero of that ms got louder and louder and impossible to ignore and in the end I listened and completely rewrote the story. Same characters, some of the old plot but I added more depths, conflict, emotion and hey presto. Well not really, it took some time, lots of hard work etc, but Scandinavian Scandal will be published on November 21st 🙂 So ‘doing the hard stuff to get to the good stuff’ definitely paid off here.

    A complete re-write is such a daunting prospect, but not only did it get me a contract it was also a great fun, as I knew my characters so well by then.


    • Lord! I am a giant writer dork, because your comment put tears in my eyes. This is exactly what I needed to hear, Doris. Because despite the conviction behind the blog post, I still think I might be crazy for doing this. And yet, I want to do it! So thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story. *humungous hug*

      E

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