If rejection sucks, starting over sucks cubed. A year ago, I wrote a blog for the Kauai Writers Conference about how painful it was to have the synopsis of my novel rejected by a freelance editor (or four.) Although at first it may seem a hideous joke, in the lunatic domain of novel writing, freelance editors get to pick and choose who will pay them to blast the writer’s carefully crafted words into oblivion. I had just turned in the blog post, called appropriately “Rejection,” to be printed, when I received a kindly sounding acceptance from a highly acclaimed editor. I was ecstatic. I was certain the Gods of Writing at last had heard my poorly camouflaged cry for help. So, after developing a warm email relationship with my new friend, an exceedingly open and supportive editor, and dusting up my manuscript as much as my patience would allow, I hustled the entire novel to her through cyberspace.
The next 30 days passed easily; the thought of her working on my book came to mind not more than once a minute. At last, right on the appointed day, I received the edits. I perused the book quickly. What was this? Praise for my brilliant word choices and use of clever metaphors? Nope. My engaging character development? Nope. Instead I discovered brittle crunches of footfalls on glass, breaking apart the book’s basic structure. I saw only stark criticism. Expletives inappropriate to this piece erupted unbidden in my mind. I must have made a mistake. I should have chosen an editor more carefully. Who did she think she was? Perhaps she was not “the one.”
I read on. What stung the most was that she was right. The phrases and sentences that my editor shone her light on were flawed. The book was quintessentially damned. I swallowed hard, fluffed up my wrinkled self image, and decided to put it all away for a month or so and turn my attention to painting.
Three months later, when last I could gaze more dispassionately at the debacle, I reread the edits. “Hey, this is not as bad as I’d thought,” I heard myself say. “There’s a lot of good stuff here. There are many parts she actually liked. Maybe I can fix this.”
I set to work once more. A little nip here, a bit of a tuck there. “What the…? That changed this other part. Oh well, another nip and two tucks. Oh, Jeez. Now the whole thing is screwed up.”
In my mind I set the work ablaze, but I could not let go. What was this? In the ashes of my book lay the beginnings of a whole new idea. I changed the name of the main character and that did it. I had a new novel going. Of course, limiting thoughts flooded in. “Do I really want to start over? Am I going to live long enough to ever publish a novel if I continue to start a new one every time I get harsh criticism? Which way to go? Whom can I ask? Who am I?”
“OK, enough already”, I said to the face in the mirror. “Let’s take a breath and settle down. Can the first book be fixed?”
“Are you capable of doing it?”
“Well, probably not at my present skill level; not so anyone would want to read it.”
“Is the plot of the new book better than the first?”
“I think so. I honestly do.”
“Do you like to write? Is it not one of your favorite things to do?”
“Uh, yes, now that you mention it.”
“Then please. Shut up, and sit back down and get to work.”
I'm still learning every day. That 's why I'm attending the Kauai Writers Festival from October 31st to November 6th. A chance to be up close with agents, editors and authors and to rub shoulders with so many other writers. See you there?