Novel Rocket

Friday, October 24, 2014

Moving on From Rejection

By Tina Ann Forkner

When I showed fifty pages of my novel to an editor familiar with my work, I was told right out that it was a coma book. There were, the editor explained, lots of coma books being pitched and I should write something else. Now, before you think the editor was being harsh, you have to know that in my book, a character spent time in a coma, hence the editor’s expression, ‘coma book’. I don’t think the editor was saying that my book would put readers in a coma, but then again, I can’t be sure.

For all I know, the term ‘coma book’ might be a term for extremely boring manuscripts, but her message was pretty clear. She didn’t want to read another coma book. Many writers would have sanely taken that editor’s advice and abandoned the story, but like some of the characters in my novel, I might have been just a little bit crazy. I wrote the book anyway. That was five years ago.

Over the next few years, the book was passed over by publishers so much that even though I’d already had two novels published by a legacy publisher, I started questioning my career choice. Over and over the message about my ‘coma book’ was, “This book is good, but I don’t like____.” The blank was filled in with basically the same thoughts coming from different editors.

After wrestling with fear of failing, beating myself up, exchanging emails with my agent in which I wanted to give up on my writing career, and taking some long and much-needed breaks to be with my family, I always came back to the same place. I still loved that book.
Consequently, loving your book isn’t enough to get a publisher to accept it, so I also got really ticked off. Getting mad made me feel better, but it also pulled me out of my slump and forced me to take an honest look at my manuscript. Was that first editor who called it a ‘coma book’ right? Should I abandon the novel? Was I going to listen to all those rejection letters? I decided that yes, I was, but not in the way you might expect.

Instead of moving on to something new, I decided to figure out what part of the story I could let go of in order to make it better. I kept going back to my manuscript, revising, and asking myself, what makes this different than all the other “coma books” out there? I got rid of the elements that multiple editors didn’t like and tried to figure out why they loved other aspects of the book.

What I figured out was, my story wasn’t about a woman in a coma. It was about a woman waking up from a coma. My main character, Joy, had been sleeping through life, not sleeping through a coma. She wasn’t stuck in limbo, she was waking up to a bigger life, but there was something huge keeping her from embracing it.

Now, talk about having a come to Jesus moment. All this time I’d been calling the book Waking Up, but somehow I had never connected the title I had chosen to the bigger point of Joy’s story. And when my author friend and future editor extraordinaire, Amy Sue Nathan, mentioned that Waking Up Joy would be a better title, it all came together in my mind. The book was later picked up by Tule Publishing, which is a whole other post, but the point is that I did not abandon Waking Up Joy, and it paid off. It releases October 8th.

I’m not saying that every story we write should be published. We all know that just isn’t true, but if you have a story and you feel in your bones that you can’t let it go, spend some time thinking about what you are really trying to say. Consider what editors are saying in their rejections of your book. If you feel like they are missing the point of your story, then your point hasn’t been made clear in your writing.

If at the end of the day, you think you can let go of your novel, then you definitely should move on and write something new. But if you are passionate about your story, if you think about it all day and it wakes you up at night, then go back and rewrite it. Make it clear, tell it better, but don’t ever give up.  

Tina Ann Forkner is a Women’s Fiction writer and the author of the Waking Up Joy releasing on October 8th, 2014. She is also the author of Rose House and Ruby Among Us. Tina’s new book is set in Oklahoma where she was raised, but she makes her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming where she is a substitute teacher and lives with her husband, three teenagers, and two spoiled dogs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Michener Epic Writing Journey ~ With a Happy Ending

Camille Eide writes tales of love, faith, and family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and is a mom, grammy, church office & preschool administrator, bass guitarist, and a fan of muscle cars, tender romance, and Peanut M&Ms. 

Her debut novel, Like There's No Tomorrow, a contemporary love story, released September 30, 2014 from Ashberry Lane Publishing.

This is your debut novel. What sparked the story?

When my friend’s Norwegian sister visited the US, she met my brother at a BBQ. After she returned home, they began corresponding, fell in love, and soon married. My friend and I thought that was very romantic and played around the idea of me writing their story as a novel. Because, you know, anyone can write a book. Although Like There’s No Tomorrow isn’t my brother and his wife’s story, their meeting and falling in love through correspondence did inspire it.

What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

I can be transparent here, right? “Today” is much different from the day I began writing to publish in 2007. Back then, while traditional publishing contracts for unknown writers were becoming available, competition was quickly growing. So whenever an editor asked to see a full manuscript of mine at a conference, I felt a ticking clock to get my book finished or shaped up and sent in as soon as possible. Which means I spent a LOT of time in my writing cave (locked away from family) intending to follow through as promised and strike while the iron was hot. I wanted to send an irresistible manuscript and have a chance at an open slot before others filled it.

But today, things are different. The opportunities for new (and not so new) novelists with traditional houses seem to be fewer, while the competition continues to grow. Today, writers are taking a step back and weighing all our options—and there are many. The timing for publishing a book is also different now, so the pressure to “strike” the traditional market has changed.

What would I do differently if I were starting my publishing career today? I’d probably back off on the 24/7 write-a-thon (though it was a valuable learning lab) and balance my time better between writing and being present with people. Take a walk. Invite the adult kids over for dinner and laugh myself sick at the comedy ricocheting around the table. Take the motorcycle out for a spin. AND continue to work on my craft, write the best books I can, and pray for the right avenue for publishing them.

Share a bit of your journey to publication.

My publication journey is a novel. Not a pretty, slender Love Inspired that you can tuck into your pocket, but one of those fatty ones. A Michener epic. With chocolate smudges on tear-stained pages, flaking creases on the spine, whole chapters missing from being ripped out and shredded, nicked corners from being flung against a wall. It’s a 7 year journey from birth to gut-wrenching surrender to death to second birth.

I think that’s about all you have room for.

I love the Michener reference and can relate to that. Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

A tidy little haven. The wallpaper on my monitor screen is a photo of Jane Austen’s writing desk, my little added inspiration. J

What would you do if you didn't write?
Probably shuffle in little circles in a corner while clutching a ratty copy of Catcher in The Rye and muttering.

What issue makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?

Gotta be honest again — you okay with that? I struggle with the temptation to make Tidy, to wrap up with the answers. I have to remind myself life isn’t tidy, I don’t have the answers, and even if I did, that’s not why people pick up a novel. I try to remember to lay down my little ego and give God the lead as I’m crafting a story, and remember it’s a collective journey for us all — the reader, the characters, and me.

What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?

1. STUDY the craft until your fingers bleed and your brain falls out.
2. READ excellent writing to train your instinct. 3. Then TRUST your instinct.

Then what 3 things would recommend not doing?

1. Don’t lock yourself away with a typewriter and a fifth of bourbon and tell yourself you’re the next Ernest Hemingway. He could do that and sell books because he’s Hemingway. You’re probably not. Do the work, learn from others, get feedback.

2. Don’t dismiss correction and instruction. Stay teachable. Some of the most prolific writers in my acquaintance impress (& humble) me by taking classes alongside noobies and admitting they always have something to learn.

3. On the other hand, Don’t listen to everyone when it comes to flaws with your story or your voice; learn to distinguish helpful feedback from impulse-driven, opinionated flap. Which is not always easy to do. Since useful advice can be just as tough to hear as flap, you can’t judge its merit by how hard it is to hear. Ask God to help you stay teachable about the things you need to hear, and confident about the things that make your voice yours and your story a strong one.

Some say a writer is born and others say anyone can learn. What do you think?

If you’re talking about fiction, anyone with a fair grasp of language can learn to string words together into a story. Some people are gifted Wordsmiths, and if they study Story, they can write fiction well enough. I believe others are blessed with the gift of storytelling — Storysmiths. They can spin a tale and captivate an audience with little understanding of grammar or The Rules. (Boo. Hiss. Oops, sorry.) If you are a storyteller by nature, and are willing to learn wordcraft, you can potentially do very well. (Debbie Macomber is a great example.) If you are crafty with words but not a storyteller by nature, you too can learn, but I believe it’s a tougher road to be as captivating. All this is one fool’s opinion, by the way. You did ask. J

What's the strangest or funniest experience you've had in writing?

Strange: When I was just starting out as a novelist, a friend of mine was in a bookstore at the mall (20 miles away) and met a woman in the Christian Fiction aisle who said she writes novels. My friend told her about me wanting to write, so this nice lady gave her some helpful book titles for me. Then she told my friend a story about meeting Francine Rivers under a tree at a writer’s conference.

Meanwhile, I joined an online writers’ group. I was welcomed by several members including Kellie Gilbert, who rarely visited the group, and who was at that time the president of a new local ACFW chapter. She saw I was from her area and invited me to attend. At my first meeting, Kellie started the meeting by telling a story about how she met Francine Rivers under a tree at a writer’s conference. Kellie was the woman my friend met in the bookstore—in an entirely different town from where I live. I ended up joining Kellie’s critique group. That strange coincidence was the first of several divine appointments that helped affirm my call as a novelist.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?

Creating gets the story rolling, but I probably do my best work while tweaking/editing (word freak). I confess I am research-challenged and lapse into evasive behavior (grazing for chocolate, fainting spells, etc) when any real research needs done.

What are your writing rituals?

I keep a little dish of peanuts and raisins nearby (ok, some of the raisins are chocolate chips), especially if I’m trying to push through something difficult. Actually, I have no idea if it helps writer’s block, but the carb rush is fun.

Do you work best under pressure or do you write at a leisurely pace??

I’m slightly OCD, so there’s always pressure and no such thing as leisure.

What are your thoughts on critique partners?

If you are lucky like me, CPs are reeeeally helpful and can turn critique sessions into mini workshops, drawing valuable lessons for everyone from all the writing samples. Or maybe that’s only if your group leader is Randy Ingermanson. Oops. Sorry. J

I think critique groups and partners are potentially priceless, if you get a good fit for your style and genre.

Any final thoughts?

I’ve been a fan/follower of Novel Journey/Novel Rocket since my own journey began, and I consider it a great honor to be invited to hang out here among some of the coolest and finest authors on the planet. (Can we get a group selfie?)

Like There's No Tomorrow

What if loving means letting go?

Scottish widower Ian MacLean is plagued by a mischievous grannie, bitter regrets, and an ache for something he’ll never have again. His only hope for freedom is to bring his grannie's sister home from America. But first, he'll have to convince her lovely companion, Emily, to let her go.

Emily Chapman devotes herself to foster youth and her beloved Aunt Grace. Caring for others quiets a secret fear she holds close to her heart. But when Ian appears, wanting to whisk Grace off to Scotland, everything Emily is trying to protect—including her heart—is at risk.

Like There’s No Tomorrow is an amusing yet heart-tugging love story about two kind, single caretakers, two quirky, old Scottish sisters bent on reuniting, and too many agendas. It’s a tale of family, fiery furnaces, falling in love, faith, and the gift of each new day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self

by James L. Rubart

The premise of the novel I'm working on as I write is, What if you could go back and talk to your younger self?

With that idea peppering my mind, I thought about what I would tell my younger writer self. What would I say to the James of '06 (which is when I dove into the publishing world) with the wisdom of the James of today.

At Least Three Things

 I'd slow down and enjoy the the wonder of it all much more

In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis writes this about Susan: (using the Lady Polly as his mouthpiece)

"Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

Getting published isn't silly, but rushing toward it like that's the pinnacle of life, is silly. More egregious is longing so much for that contract, or indie book to launch, that you miss the magic of the moments that are happening right now. Treasure them.

Ask any successful entrepreneur (and that's what writers are) about their most treasured memories, and most will tell you things like  eating pizza in their office off of cardboard boxes because they couldn't afford a conference table. I wish I would have cherished the struggling years more.

Take the time to make your first book great. I thought I was ready to publish in 2006. My 148,000 word manuscript was a masterpiece. Except it wasn't.  (Yeah, a bit long for one thing.) I seriously considered self-publishing. Nowadays that's a viable option, but back then it was the quick-fix to no publisher wanting to take a chance on me.

Don't succumb to the quick-fix solution. Maybe indie is the way for you to go. Fine. But don't do slap-and-dash publishing. Make sure your craft is honed. Hire an excellent editor; cover designer; etc. Make it a book you'll be proud of two years, five years, ten years from now.

Have the guts to ask a friend (with the necessary experience ) who will be brutally honest about whether it's time to publish, or whether you need to put in a few more years of training before you sign up for the marathon.

Sales, awards, and the praise of men don't matter, so shun them!Yeah, I saved the toughest bit of advice for Young James for last. Inside most of us is a little boy or girl, still wondering if anyone is going to pick us for the playground game. So when the awards and the bestseller lists and the reader e-mails start popping up in our in-boxes, it's hard not to let those things validate us.

But it's vapor. Name me the ten bestselling novelists of fifty years ago. Name three. Not easy is it? We could make a few educated guesses, but that's about it.

I'd tell myself, "James, seek Jesus. Follow the path he's leading you on. Take his yoke on your shoulders every day. Nothing else matters. Nothing else is going to last."

Your Turn

What would you tell you the writer from eight years back? 

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and Christy award winning author of six novels. During the day he helps authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis, golfs, does sleight of hand, and takes photos.  No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at