Moving on From Rejection

Tina Ann Forkner
When I showed fifty pages of my novel to an editor
familiar with my work, I was told right out that it was a coma book. There
were, the editor explained, lots of coma books being pitched and I should write
something else. Now, before you think the editor was being harsh, you have to
know that in my book, a character spent time in a coma, hence the editor’s
expression, ‘coma book’. I don’t think the editor was saying that my book would
put readers in a coma, but then again, I can’t be sure.

For all I know, the term ‘coma book’ might be a term
for extremely boring manuscripts, but her message was pretty clear. She didn’t
want to read another coma book. Many writers would have sanely taken that
editor’s advice and abandoned the story, but like some of the characters in my
novel, I might have been just a little bit crazy. I wrote the book anyway. That
was five years ago.

Over the next few years, the book was passed over by
publishers so much that even though I’d already had two novels published by a
legacy publisher, I started questioning my career choice. Over and over the message
about my ‘coma book’ was, “This book is good, but I don’t like____.” The blank
was filled in with basically the same thoughts coming from different editors.

After wrestling with fear of failing, beating myself
up, exchanging emails with my agent in which I wanted to give up on my writing
career, and taking some long and much-needed breaks to be with my family, I
always came back to the same place. I still loved that book.

Consequently, loving your book isn’t enough to get a
publisher to accept it, so I also got really ticked off. Getting mad made me
feel better, but it also pulled me out of my slump and forced me to take an
honest look at my manuscript. Was that first editor who called it a ‘coma book’
right? Should I abandon the novel? Was I going to listen to all those rejection
letters? I decided that yes, I was, but not in the way you might expect.

Instead of moving on to something new, I decided to
figure out what part of the story I could let go of in order to make it better.

I kept going back to my manuscript, revising, and asking
myself, what makes this different than all the other “coma books” out there? I
got rid of the elements that multiple editors didn’t like and tried to figure
out why they loved other aspects of the book.

What I figured out was, my story wasn’t about a woman
in a coma. It was about a woman waking up from a coma. My main character, Joy,
had been sleeping through life, not sleeping through a coma. She wasn’t stuck
in limbo, she was waking up to a bigger life, but there was something huge
keeping her from embracing it.

Now, talk about having a come to Jesus moment. All this
time I’d been calling the book Waking Up,
but somehow I had never connected the title I had chosen to the bigger point of
Joy’s story. And when my author friend and future editor extraordinaire, Amy
Sue Nathan, mentioned that Waking Up Joy
would be a better title, it all came together in my mind. The book was later picked
up by Tule Publishing, which is a whole other post, but the point is that I did
not abandon Waking Up Joy, and it
paid off. It releases October 8th.

I’m not saying that every story we write should be
published. We all know that just isn’t true, but if you have a story and you
feel in your bones that you can’t let it go, spend some time thinking about
what you are really trying to say. Consider what editors are saying in their
rejections of your book. If you feel like they are missing the point of your
story, then your point hasn’t been made clear in your writing.

If at the end of the day, you think you can let go of
your novel, then you definitely should move on and write something new. But if
you are passionate about your story, if you think about it all day and it wakes
you up at night, then go back and rewrite it. Make it clear, tell it better,
but don’t ever give up.  

Tina Ann Forkner
is a Women’s Fiction writer and the author of the Waking Up Joy
releasing on October 8th, 2014. She is also the author of Rose House
and Ruby Among Us
. Tina’s new book is
set in Oklahoma where she was raised, but she makes her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming
where she is a substitute teacher and lives with her husband, three teenagers,
and two spoiled dogs.