Every writer’s road to getting a novel published is unique. No one takes the same turns, makes the same decisions and agrees to compromise in the same manner. Yes, I said compromise and before the cries of artistic freedom and censorship fall down from the heavens, let me explain how Little River came alive.
The only common thread writers share is a finished manuscript. It takes thousands of hours at the keyboard, outlining, composing and drafting your story. Every writer’s story is unique. You can give two writers the same story line and based on their life experiences and the voices in their heads, you will end up with two completely different stories. Finishing that manuscript, however, is a high. After fighting off every known source of distraction and procrastination in the free world, that final keystroke on the last page of your novel is like heroin. You’ve hustled, given up outside activities, ignored your spouse, all for that hit of euphoric completion. You’ve done it. You have written a novel. Now you want more.
When I finished the manuscript for Little River, I didn’t have the first clue on what to do next. I sat back, basked in my writerly glory and read the story I told everyone about. It was a transformational moment. The manuscript was absolute crap.
What was I thinking? How much time did I waste on this disconnected drivel? You had the gall to call yourself a writer? Sweating self-doubt from every pore, I confronted the embarrassing excuse of a story and dove into round after round of revision and rewriting. I filled plot holes and changed plot lines. How I hated the editing and revision process. My preconceived notion of writing and the creative process defined editing as a mundane, technical, non-creative chore. I wanted to write and to me, then, this was not writing. So I cleaned up the manuscript and sent queries, sample chapters and full manuscripts when asked. Six months passed and the canned rejections trickled in. Then, like the Rolling Stones song said, you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need, a moment happened. No, the manuscript wasn’t snapped up and massive contracts didn’t appear, I received something more valuable. I got honest to God feedback on my manuscript. Three publishers took the time to tell me what they liked, what didn’t work for them, and that I had talent.
I continued to rewrite and revise the manuscript, and resubmitted what was at least a seventh version to a few publishers and one liked it and presented it to the editorial board. The outcome of which I wouldn’t know for nearly two years.
So I shelved Little River and moved on to the next novel, then another, and another. Somewhere in that pile of words and pixels on my monitor, my paradigm on editing and revision changed. I unlocked the side of my brain that defined editing as a mundane necessary uncreative evil, and became a better writer. Revision is where the art of writing occurs, where all the subtext, nuances and character development have to come together. That is creative work and it’s difficult. It took me years and tens of thousands of hours to realize writing is more that drafting a good story line.
A few years ago, I attended a a Mystery Writer’s Conference and listened to noted authors like Michael Connelly, Robert Crais and Cara Black talk about their writing process. I assumed that everything that flowed from their fingertips to the keyboard was golden. They all agreed that the first draft of any work was awful. It was referred to as “the vomit draft,” and it was important only to purge, and get the story out. Revision was where the writing happened. All this time I had it backwards.
About that time, I heard back from the publisher on Little River, and after two years, they were going to pass on the book. Their publishing line up changed and my manuscript didn’t fit their new direction. It kinda felt like being a contestant on a game show, booted off with a kind word, “Thanks for playing our game.” If I hadn’t written other material, I may have taken the rejection differently. I focused on marketing two new novels and met with a small local publisher who liked the new stuff, but said, basically, “What else you got?” I mentioned Little River in passing and he wanted to see the manuscript.
I revised the manuscript again, with five years more writing experience under my belt, and gave it to him. In turn, he had the story read by someone he trusted with fiction material. That person was Amy Drew, at SALT Media Productions.
Some weeks later, Amy contacted me about publishing Little River through SALT Media Productions. We worked out a contract, went through three or four more, back and forth revisions until we were both happy with the final product. Amy spent time teaching an old dog new tricks, in this case social media, but that is a subject for an entirely separate post.
Little River was released by SALT Media Productions on March 30, 2013 on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and Apple’s iBookstore. A Kobo release recently went live. The published version of Little River is five years removed from the initial rough draft that nearly made me dump my keyboard in the trash bin. There is no single path to publishing your novel. Big traditional, independent, or a smaller publisher like mine, all have something to offer. I needed someone with Amy’s energy, focus and spirit to get me in the right place to publish my first novel. Thanks, Amy.
Since Little River, I’ve written six novels, two spec scripts, and a screenplay. We’ll see where this journey leads…