Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Emotional Roller Coaster

When my love of writing became an earnest intent to publish, I had no idea I was mounting a twisting, looping roller coaster. Please note that from my perspective a roller coaster is NOT an instrument of fun and delight. Chugging to a peak is no problem, but the other side of that peak? Uh-uhhhh. Not a matter of fun, but of heart-stopping, sweat-dripping, jaw-clenching horror. Okay, the worst of my writing disappointments wasn’t quite that bad, but catch the analogy of plunging emotions and we’re on the same page.

My co-author husband and I boarded the roller coaster when we sent our first “publishable” draft to a manuscript critique service. When the author assigned to us left a voice mail praising our novel, I sobbed so hard at her affirmation that I couldn’t even tell my daughter what I was crying about. She thought I was phoning to tell her my cancer had returned!

Chugga, chugga, the roller coaster climbed to its first peak as the author’s agent took us on as clients.  Within months, we plummeted down, rejected by three publishing houses (huh? that happens?) and our agent dead of a heart attack (no connection to the plummet).  But, chugga chugga, we attended our first writing conference and met an amazing bunch of fellow Christian writers. So helpful, especially when they informed us that our novel would never, ever, ever be accepted in omniscient POV. A short nose-dive that time, followed by a major revision of our novel into third person POV. Back to the next year’s conference and, chugga chugga, an interested editor and agent. But no, another plunge toward the depths of despair as both ended up rejecting us.

So we asked the editor-turned-agent we’d met at the conference if we could pay him to critiique our novel. Chugga chugga, his analysis was the best thing we’d done yet. Along with suggested changes in plot and characterization, he recommended we scrap the writing and start over from scratch. Huh? Why do that when patches were just as good? (Weren’t they?)

Back to the same conference a third time, and, chugga chugga, we not only found a wonderful agent but also learned about American Christian Fiction Writers. Joining ACFW was a major turning point because we not only acquired critique partners but also started participating in ACFW’s monthly online classes .That was the year we began learning the craft of writing in a new and serious way.

Remember that patched manuscript? We patched because we hadn’t understood half of what the agent said. Now we do. We’ve caught the lingo and received help with the skills. We’ve gutted our novel and started over from scratch (it’s the first in a trilogy, so we need to keep it). Best of all, we’ve gotten off that horrid roller coaster. We still want to be published, but the emotion driving us now is the joy of improving as writers.  Hmmm, was that God’s intent all along?

Steph Prichard

11 comments:

  1. Steph,
    Since we all live the roller coaster, I vote for an official ACFW cheer that goes something like this:
    Chugga, chugga, chugga, AAAAAAAA!
    Chugga, chugga, chugga, Nooooooo!
    Chugga, chugga, chugga, Wheeeeee!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marvelous, Steph! I LOVE your roller-coaster analogy -- so appropriate -- for most of us, anyway! And if you haven't already, how about submitting it to some writing mags, such as "Christian Communicator." That way, it will be an inspiration to MANY. . . :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rachael, we should at least make that our official Indiana chapter cheer, yes? Whenever someone at, say, the ACFW conference wins recognition, all of us Hoosiers could stand up and yell the Chugga Cheer! Wouldn't you have loved that last year???

    And Millie, thanks for your encouragement--but you do realize you're asking me to now face rejection from a magazine in addition to book publishers? Noooooooooooo!

    ReplyDelete
  4. *snort*
    My boys used to run around pumping their arms, pretending to be Thomas the Tank Engine ..."Chugga, chugga, choo, choo ..."

    Bless his little heart, Thomas doesn't give up, either.

    Such a visual of the roller coaster!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Michelle WeidenbennerMarch 19, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    Great post! I think my train quit chugging. Maybe it needs to make a stop at the ACFW critique station. Just where is that located?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Michelle, go to the ACFW website, join, and they'll help you get connected with fellow critiquers. One of the best things I ever did for help and encouragement!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, Steph. This reminds me of the little engine who could . . . remember the big 'ole train that needed to pulled up and over the mountain? Other engines turn down the opportunity, but the small little (was it blue?) engine said he/she would "try". I think I can, I think I can . . . and someone told me it was a girl engine! Is that true?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Donna, in the 1991 film adaptation the engine was named Tillie, which sounds pretty feminine to me!

    ReplyDelete
  9. That makes the story even better for you and I.

    ReplyDelete