Last weekend I finished the first draft of my new Detective Jackson novel (yes, I write and edit on weekends too), and so this week, I’m going back through to rewrite and clean up (find all the places where characters have morphed and street names have changed). This is such a strange process. One moment I’m excited and happy and thinking “This is the one. This is the novel that will be a breakthrough and get people’s attention.” Then two pages later, I’m disgusted by a line of dialogue, doubtful about the whole plot, and scared that this manuscript will suffer the same fate as all the others.

What is that fate? Here’s the short version of my “Almost” story.

My first “almost” was about ten years ago. I had a great story and found a great agent (president of Writers’ House) who sent my manuscript out to five editors at major publishers. One day he called and said, “Michelle Whatshername at HarperCollins loves your manuscript, and I’ll have an offer for you next week.” I danced around the house for days, but the offer never came and my agent gave up. I was so crushed, I stopped writing novels for a few years. (I wrote screenplays, instead. A whole ‘nother story.)

My second “almost” was two years ago. I finished another story that I was excited about, found an agent who said, “This story has great commercial potential,” then she sent it out to five editors at major publishing houses. Those editors said things like: “I read this story in one sitting!” “The writing is excellent.” “This is an outstanding piece of fiction.” But nobody bought it because the victims are underage. That story is THE SEX CLUB, which I brought to the market through a niche publisher. (An effort similar to using a toothbrush to dig a hole for swimming pool.) But readers love the story and want more.

So now I have another Detective Jackson novel, soon to be finished. I don’t want to go the same niche-publisher route (my toothbrush is worn out and my fingers are numb), and I have two agents who read the first 50 pages and are excited to see the rest. But this process—agent, wait, submission, wait, “no thanks”—scares me big time. Will it be a case of “Third time is the charm” or “Three strikes and your out”? I’m not sure I can take another “Almost.” But I am sure that I’m not giving up yet.

PS: Read tomorrow’s post to find out how I stay happy through the crushing disappointments.

  1. Enjoyed the post and the candid story of your ordeals in getting published. I think all of us writers have similar struggles. I could write a book on how traumatic it can be to write and publish a book! lol

    Glad you did not and ARE not giving up.

    Marvin D Wilson
    Blogs at:
    Eye Twitter 2 –

  2. Writers get so much rejection, from critique partners to agents to editors to readers. But you’re doing the right thing… believing in yourself and your writing, continuing to write and push forward, sharing with others, and reaching for your goal. I predict you’ll achieve it!

  3. AH hah! You ARE doing the challenge! I’ve been visiting the blogs in the links folder on BBT’s and you’re not in there. Luckily Dani has a complete list on her blog. So glad I found you ’cause I love this post. I can absolutely empathize with your ‘almost’ stories…I call it the Sisyphus Sydrome…you almost have that booulder up the hill, then it rolls back down a ways…back up again, back down…

    I look forward to reading your book!

  4. What upsets me even more is the treatment that so many authors are getting AFTER they’re accepted by a publisher. I think if I went the traditional route with a mystery novel, I would pick Poisoned Pen Press… they might be smallish, but they have dynamite books and it seems to me they treat their authors with some respect – kindness even. Just observation from an outsider. It’s one thing to be rejected up front… another to get booted after you’ve had a few books published. That really stinks.

  5. Thanks, everyone. And Dani, it’s so true. Even being published is no guarantee that you’ll continued to be published. I have a friend who’s an award-winning mystery novelist and her publisher won’t take anything she writes that’s not part of her series. They only want what they know for sure they can sell.

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