As stated in a previous post, it was the first Sunday of January 2003 that I finished the first draft of Doctor Luke’s Assistant. It was around 151,000 words. Although I was completely unknowledgeable of the publishing industry, and of writing in general (except for poetry, which I had been studying), I knew I needed to go through the book. As I had worked through it I added some sub-plot lines, and knew they weren’t accounted for in early chapters.
So I printed the book and began reading it, and typed the edits when I finished a chapter. I learned that sometimes I didn’t write my edits clearly, so as I typed I edited some more. Despite the length of the book, I was able to complete these edits around the first of March 2003. I was satisfied that all plot lines were complete, and any foreshadowing was there. The length after this editing was a little over 155,000 words.
At the same time I had begun studying how to get a book published. Now some people would say this was backwards. Study what makes a good book first, then write it. What can I say? I did it backwards. In the creative rush of getting the book out, I wrote the story that was on my heart, blissfully unaware that it was too long for commercial purposes, in the wrong voice for a rookie writer, and in a dead genre. Three strikes at the start.
I’m usually a fairly quick study on things, and immediately learned that I needed to attend a writers conference. I didn’t know much about what went on at such conferences, but I knew I needed to go. I picked a relatively small, regional, Christian conference in Oklahoma City, a conference billed as for beginners. Perfect. I re-printed the edited manuscript, registered for the conference, took the foster kids to the Children’s Shelter for the weekend (the preferred place to go when foster parents needed a break), and we pointed the minivan westward and drove the four hours.
The two day conference was an eye opener. This was a craft-building and contact-making conference. It didn’t include editors or agents on the faculty, only writers. They said I could sign up for two appointments, so I chose the two writers who taught the first class.
That first class was full of news, mostly bad. I learned the publisher wouldn’t do much to promote my book; I would have to do it. I learned the publisher expected manuscripts to be error free and essentially ready for publishing; I would have to be my own editor or hire one. I learned about query letters, proposals, summaries, etc. Lots of information.
My first appointment was with a veteran writer, an older man who had been a full-time writer for twenty years and who taught the opening class. I gave him my manuscript, which is what I figured I was supposed to do. He looked at the cover for all of two seconds, or maybe three, set it aside and proceeded to lecture me on something. I don’t remember much of what he said.
My second appointment was with Renee Gutteridge, who was early in her writing career, with two novels published and a couple more under contract. She asked what she could do for me. I said this was my first conference, I didn’t really know what these appointments were for, but I had my novel manuscript with me. She took it and read for about five minutes, getting several pages in. She then gave me pointers about dialog, saying I was doing some things wrong, and showing me how to correct it. She spoke about the writing process and editing. It was a good meeting. Must have been, for after more than nine years it has stayed with me.
Overall, the conference was a letdown. I learned that writing the book was not necessarily the hardest part of the publishing process. Just finding a publisher was equally hard if not harder. Somewhere in that conference I learned the difference in the general market (A.B.A.) and the Christian market (C.B.A.) I learned that only one major publisher in the C.B.A. still accepted submittals from un-agented authors. I wrote a query letter, using whatever techniques I had picked up at the conference. I faxed it (allowed, per their web site), and waited.
Not long it turned out. I think it was 48 hours later when the rejection came through, either by return fax or e-mail. My first rejection from a publisher. I was officially a wannabe writer!