Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Write with a Grateful Heart

Lately I've heard a lot of gnashing of teeth (that sound is grating!)--Genesis scores came back. The whining begins as scores scald those who didn't final. Surely the judges made mistakes and have no idea what they were doing! (Eliminate exclamation marks--minus 3 points.) Well, yeah, those judges are human, imagine that. You could be right, or not. Even editors at big houses make mistakes. How could God allow such a trial in YOUR LIFE? 

Published authors get rejected every day. Just because they published one book doesn't mean that an editor will take on the next book. Some of the most famous authors got rejections early and maybe even later. So, since you are ready to give up writing (really?) and you're deeming your judges unfit for humanity (yeah, I've heard some of the talk,) I thought I'd share with you a few rejections.

Tom Clancy wrote these highly technical military novels. Who wants to read that? Evidently, no one, according to most publishers. He finally got published with a small military press. It had a dismal run.No one had ever heard of The Hunt for Red October. He probably didn't even get a book signing on a nuclear submarine.

Then, our president, Ronald Reagan, was shot and landed in the hospital with a serious, life-threatening injury. To assure the people, Reagan would walk out on a balcony each day and talk with the press. One day he stuck his thumb in a book he was reading and walked out. Of course, the press wanted to know what that book was. Yes, it was Tom Clancy's book and Reagan gave it a thumbs-up (he may have lost his place) and the rest, as we like to say, is history. Soon, not only were his books picked up by a large publisher, a bestseller, and we didn't even have to read the book--it was a movie.

Judy Blume tried repeatedly to get a piece published in Highlights for Children magazine before her bestselling YA books were published. The award-winning and bestselling author of numerous novels became quite discouraged. For two years she got nothing but rejections. Judy has reportedly said that she still can't look at Highlights for Children magazine without "wincing." (So, yes, it still stings, years and bestsellers later.)

e.e. cummings, the famous poet, borrowed money from his mother to publish his own book of poetry. On the dedication page he had a poem he called "No Thanks" shaped like a funeral urn. It listed almost every publisher who turned him down. I'm not sure I'd advocate self-publishing, but today we have some good options to consider and self-publishing isn't the stigma as in the past. e.e. cummings had good stuff. Make sure yours is well done before going that route (and hire a good editor because a good editor can make a story shine.)

Jo Rowling (or otherwise known as J.K. Rowling) was rejected by everyone before a small press called Bloomsbury took on her, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone book. They only accepted it because the publisher's 8-year-old daughter read it (she would be the acquisitions reader--be careful whom you trash) and thought it was great.

Steve Laube once told a story about picking up a small book on a bookstore sales table, giving it the once over, and putting it back with the words, "It'll never sell." It was by Bruce Wilkinson and called, The Prayer of Jabez, not much later #1 on the NY Times Bestseller list. As Steve said, "Who knew?"

Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness wasn't a bestseller until Amy Grant mentioned it in one of her performances.Years later people are still talking about that book and it continues to sell.

What's your story you're going to tell when you publish your first book? What story do you have to tell right now if you did publish? Very few have a cakewalk into publishing their first book. Most have battle scars and rejections and some even didn't make it to the final round in the Genesis.

So, what do you do? Ye, who are brokenhearted?

Continue to write. If God put it into your heart to write, write. Obedience even in the face of rejections and poor critique comments means that He's not finished with shaping you, or your audience isn't ready yet. Learn what you're doing wrong, and find what you do right, and just write.

Find encouragers because we all face discouragement. I like to read 1 Kings 18-19 about Elijah when I'm discouraged. A little Brook of Cherith time and asking God to show me in His "gentle whisper" that He's still there helps me to pull up my bootstraps and get tough. You can ask each one of our published authors here in Indiana ACFW for their story, too. Sometimes it helps to know others are out there and will cheer when you do publish.

Ask God to direct your path. Proverbs 3: 4,5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." 'Nuff said.

Now, go out there and write your thank you notes, if you haven't done so yet (,be nice!) to those Genesis judges (or the coordinators or whomever gave you feedback.) Who knows? Judges have long memories (they're only human) and could be your biggest cheerleader some day.If you are humble and have a thankful heart, God recognizes this. It's tough to be a writer. Everyone watches how you take criticism. (Including God and oh, yeah, agents and editors and first round judges.)

When an editor or agent asks one of those first round judges how you took criticism, what will he say about you?


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Crystal -

I loved this post. Hmm, that's a new marketing tactic: get someone famous to read your book and give a "thumbs up."

My first Genesis Contest experience encouraged me.

Susan :)

Jan Cline said...

Oh my what a powerful post. I had mixed emotions with my Genesis scores, but I so appreciated the effort that one judge in particular put forth in my critique. She took the time to give detailed explanations and give me very helpful references. I could tell she put a lot of thought into it. I value the suggestions very much. I hope to have a publishing story to tell someday, but I am willing to pay my dues to get it told.

Christine Lindsay said...

Great words of wisdom. Writing is a hard road, one of sacrifice. A lot of walking in the valley. Thanks for your words of encouragement Crystal.

Jean said...

Such an encouraging post, Crystal. Thank you.

My Sunday School class began a study on Elijah's life last week. Today we discussed his Brook of Cherith adventure. It struck a chord in my writer's heart, too.