Is it me--or them? Don’t they believe I’m the next Nicholas Sparks?

When I started writing my first manuscript four years ago, I thought, “I can write a novel. I went to college twenty-seven years ago. Nothing has changed, right?”

Oh, my word! WRONG!

Things change daily. Yes, the rule still applies that you have to set out a name or endearment in commas; I still see that mistake all the time in novels, though. And yes, you still have to put a comma after a long introductory clause, or no telling what you'll end up doing to your characters. You remember that pic: "Let's eat Grandma!" Without the comma, Grandma becomes dinner!

Other items in writing are subjective, though. The important thing is that the reader ‘gets’ it. That was my first mistake. I’d been editing nonfiction for ten years. It never occurred to me that I had to allow some fragments and contractions to slip by, and on occasion, start my sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’.

What? My college courses, Com 2 and English Lit, didn’t teach me that style of writing.

Oh well, back to the drawing board I went. I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. Every time I received a rejection, it felt as though I was at a dead end, and there was no way to cross the bridge to publishing. But, I brushed off my backside and rewrote again. I think I was at thirty rewrites when I realized, maybe it isn’t just the story; maybe the query sucks.

What? They didn’t believe I was the next Nicholas Sparks or Iris Johansen.

So, there I went, and you know what? That one piece of paper was the key. I'd written 99,989 words, and it was that one tiny piece of paper that was keeping me from getting a contract.

I rewrote and resubmitted twenty query letters, even to some who’d turned me down a year before, and within hours and days, I had five requests. Within weeks I had three ‘we think we want to represent you’ letters if… I wasn’t too keen on the ‘ifs’.

A month later, I’d made a decision between two large agents and two publishers and went with a small publisher who would publish my novel within three months.

Three months later, I was a bestselling author on Amazon’s ‘paid’ list, sitting right next to, you guessed it, Nicholas Sparks. (Iris Johansen and JD Robb/Nora Roberts were lower on the list). I was so excited I took a picture of Sparks and Me. I wonder if he remembers we shared a page for a while. Probably not. LOL!

Morals of the story: Readers decide, not just big publishers anymore, and if you are receiving rejections, take a step back. Reevaluate and reassess your submission; maybe there is something you can do. Or, if it’s everything you want, self-publish, and readers will be sure to tell you what they think.

I hope this musing doesn't come off the wrong way; I hope it gives you inspiration and the okay to tear up something and start over if need be, as that is my only intent.

Until next time, happy reading and writing, friends!


Thank you for stopping by my place and reading my musings. Remember, these are just my opinions and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer.  If you’re curious about what I write, please visit one of my author pages, where you can read all about my novels and short stories. And hey, I’ll even give you a free book just for stopping by.

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  1. Wow! Congratulations! I'd love to see your before and after query letter.

    1. That's a very good idea, Marie. I'll have to look up the before version. It's not in my computer, but I'm sure I can find it hidden away in my email archives. My after is easy; it's pretty darn close to my mini synopsis, which you can see under my SHE BELONGS TO ME tab on this blog. Other than the normal 'bio and PLEASE contact me', it's almost identical; since it worked with agents, I hoped it'd catch the readers' attention too.

  2. Hi Carmen
    Great post. It's informative, inspirational and comforting. Thanks for sharing your journey.
    Still dancing

    1. Thank you, Jo-Ann. That was my intention, but I also wrote the caveat at the end, hoping people wouldn’t take what I wrote as, “look at me.” Because that is never my objective, in fact, I dislike people watching me; I get all nervous when someone’s observing me.

      But I did want to share with others that it is okay to go back to the drawing board; it is okay to walk away from a big agent or a publisher if something doesn’t feel write, and it is okay to self-publish and let the reader decide. All of it is okay, as long as you don’t give up.

      Keep dancing, my friend; as long as the music is playing, have fun.

  3. I enjoyed this post. Inspirational to writers to always be learning and persist. Thanks.