Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thank you, rejections

When I think about my long train of writing rejections, I think about that Alanis Morrisette song, thank you frailty, thank you terror, thank you silence.

That is a sort of melodramatic way to look at it, but I really am grateful for all my rejections, but mostly the two big ones. I feel like I was kept hungry for a really long time, kept beating my head against a wall.

My best rejections were for books that you will never see.

The story of that started in 2001, when I wrote this humorous novel about some people in a science fiction theater group. At the time I thought of it as literary fiction but kind of genre, because a lot of danger and sex were thrown in. The book was decent and I even landed a good agent, but after several almost-sales to big New York publishers, it went nowhere. I was so disheartened. I’d worked on this novel for three years.

At that time also, my good friend’s book, literary fiction, had gone to auction and sold big. I was so jealous! I felt like such a failure, because we had both sort of come up together.

Then I picked myself up and wrote another book, a better book, this one about the travails of a hermit who paints portraits of people’s pets and hates people, and the woman who desires him. It was sort of contemporary romance, though I didn’t realize it at the time, to me it just had plenty of humor and sex and a little danger, which always spices up a book for me. 

My former agent, when she read it, saw no hope for the book and didn’t seem to want to work with me anymore. Looking back, I really don't blame her. 

It fit nowhere. It was romantic, but not a proper romance, not a proper thriller, and not at all literary fiction.

Then my brilliantly published friend suggested I think of a niche and write in that niche. It was such simple advice, but smart!

I was reading a lot of Laurel K. Hamilton at the time, and I thought, I will write in this fantastical niche. This urban fantasy thing. Which is where the Disillusionists came from.

I’m so grateful those early novels didn’t get published, I’m so grateful, because if they had been published, I would have stayed where I was, and I would not have headed so deeply into urban fantasy and then fantasy, and from there, paranormal romance, which led me to reading historical romance, which I love, and then contemporary romance and romantic suspense.

In other words, I would have stayed in my genre no-man’s land. The rejections, horrible as they felt at the time, forced me to get really serious about reading and writing in specific genres. It forced me to seek structure and a defined market. In short, getting them rejected led me to push my writing into a box, to structure it on a model, and that structure has made me a better writer.

That probably sounds counterintuitive, but it’s how it was for me. Also, understanding specific genres, especially UF, which features heroic protagonists, taught me to kind to my characters. To be forgiving with them. To allow them to be heroic, or to find what is heroic in them. 

And also, I just love being in the UF and PNR genre realm! I felt so lonely before.
I went back some time ago and considered self pubbing those two novels, but I won’t do that. I have grown so much from forcing myself to color within genre lines. I’m still write cross genre, but I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. It’s not just random, and out of ignorance, like how I used to write.  I’m so grateful that self publishing wasn’t around then, too, because I would’ve just published those books anyway, and written more of them. 

1 comment:

  1. Such an interesting story, Carolyn! I do think it's meant when those books don't get taken. All part of the process, painful though it might be...