Long Time No See by Deborah Schneider
When I sold my first book as part of the New Historical Voice contest sponsored by Romantic Times Magazine and Dorchester publishing, (this was before the American Title contest Marie-Claude won) – I thought my publishing career was on a straight shot to the top.
I was already nearly finished with the next book, I had a big-time NY publisher and a few months later, I even acquired an agent. Yes, I was on my way. It was all going to be easy street from now on.
Then, something funny happened on the way to famous. Actually – nothing.
My editor never found time to read my option book. She kept promising when we talked, she said great things about my writing and about the first book. We met at a conference and even though my friend told me I was being paranoid, I got a weird vibe from her. I started to think that maybe my debut book wasn’t going to skyrocket me to success.
Eventually I shopped the option book around to agents and editors. It was a Western, set in Montana, (not Texas). I was told to consider changing the first chapter, take out the prologue and cut the word count, (when that particular publisher thought 82,000 words was long). Most of the time I just heard, “not right for us” and “good luck”.
In the meantime, life went on. I had a family to help support, a child with a chronic disease and a demanding job. There were years that are now a blur of running to the office for a few hours before racing to the hospital to be with my son. I was still writing, or at least trying to.
And then one day, as my son lay in the critical care ward of the hospital, I closed up my laptop and said, “maybe this just isn’t going to happen again”. I realized that I only had the strength for a certain number of things and that sending things queries and partials out and getting rejected was more stress than I wanted to add to my life. So I stopped writing.
But the stories just wouldn’t go away. Characters appeared in my thoughts and I wondered what was going to happen to them. I heard the voices of imaginary people and could see them in that secret movie place writers go to when they picture the story. Even if I wasn’t typing out the stories, they were still there.
And that’s when I realized that the important thing wasn’t getting an agent, selling the book and hitting the lists. For me, the important thing was writing the book. I was looking for outside validation from agents, publishers, reviewers and readers when really, I was the most important audience member.
So I went back to the keyboard and started another story with new characters. I found joy in the research, happiness in the process of creation and peace in the pages I added one after another.
A funny thing happened when I let go of all that “selling the book” stuff. I sold another book. It wasn’t to a big time NY publisher this time, it was to a small publishing house owned and operated by two women. I discovered an editor who loved my voice and wanted to help me CRAFT a better book. I was assigned to an artist who created a cover I think is breathtaking.
Publishing is a strange and tough business. You have no control over anything but your own attitude and the pleasure you take in the writing. For me – when I focused on the important thing, the reason I started to write in the first place, success followed.
Now that I’m enjoying the first rosy days of publication for Promise Me, I think of it as the “little book that could” and I’m the writer who couldn’t give up.
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Thank you so much for sharing this story with us Deborah. I know that sometimes I get so caught up in the worried of publication that I forget to just enjoy the storytelling.
To learn more about Deborah Schneider and her writing, please visit her at www.debschneider.com