Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My Journey to Publication - Part I


Rhonda McKnight

I wrote my first manuscript over a period of years. I began it in June of 2004 and finished it in April of 2007. There were long gaps of time when I did not touch it. Like an entire pregnancy and postpartum period, during my time in grad school (which was most of the time), and during a six month period of time when I decided I wasn’t going to finish it. The original draft was 115,000 words and if I was honest with myself I probably wrote the first draft in less than six months.

Secrets and Lies started as Torn Asunder and then became Issues of the Heart. It was Issues of the Heart for a long time. I was married to that title, and it was the perfect title for the book, that is until I learned a little about marketing. My mentor suggested that the title sounded like a non-fiction book title. I said, "Well, I'll put "a novel" on it, but then I realized if an author had to put “a novel” on their book just to make sure readers knew it was fiction, that meant it had the wrong title. So, I dug deep in the manuscript and pulled out one of the main recurring themes. Just about everybody in the story had a secret and most of those secrets have led to lies.

Lesson #1: Your title is a marketing tool. It should absolutely capture the essence of what your story is about, but make sure it grabs the reader.
On New Year’s Eve 2006 I decided 2007 was going to be my year. I was going to sell my novel. I made a plan to take the first week of April off from work, clean it up and put it in the mail to publishers who were taking unsolicited submissions (unsolicited means unagented). I followed the plan, took the week off, worked twelve hours a day on the rewriting and edits and by the end of the week put a query letter and the first four chapters in the mail to the publisher I thought would be a good fit for it. I still had some work to do on the manuscript, but I figured I had a couple of months before I’d hear from them with the request for full. Well to my surprise the next week – I mean in exactly seven days I had a letter in my box from the publisher requesting the full manuscript. I seriously assumed it was a rejection letter,so I was pleasantly surprised that they had requested the full and so quickly. There was one teeny little problem, right? The book wasn't done!

Lesson #2: Don’t do what I did. Make sure the book is finished.

I worked like a maniac to get the manuscript completely finished and read by a few people. I took pictures of the package and put it in the mail on May 16th. I waited, and waited and waited. By August I started thinking, “What happened?” Didn’t they love it? All 99,900 words of it. I sent a follow up letter and received one back that said “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” So then I decided it was time to send my masterpiece to someone else. Rememeber, I was selling a book this year. Time was a wasting.

To be continued on Friday…


Sharon Ball said...

Even your blog post ended with a cliffhanger. I love it!!! What a great idea for you to share your journey to publication with all of us. Your story gives me so much hope. Thank you for letting us peek behind the curtain to see how it all came together for you.

Anonymous said...

Rhonda, you are such an inspiration! Can't wait to read the rest!

La Monica R. Smith said...

Your journey is a wonderful read in and of itself Rhonda. Thanks for sharing with us.

Rhonda McKnight said...

Hah, hah, hah! Sharon you are so funny. I have to admit if I've gotten anything down about this writing thing it's the cliffhangars. I'm a big suspense fan and one day I'm going to write my suspense series and for sure I'll leave the reader hanging at the end of each chapter.

LaMonica - thanks so much for you encouragement. You know I appreciate you.

PatriciaW said...

Way to keep us reading, Rhonda. Can't wait for the next installment.

BTW, love the cover!

myra said...

Hi, thanks for sharing your road to publication. I am on that road, now. I have a completed, edited work of Christian fiction that begs to be nurtured by a publisher and read by millions.

I know it's a journey that all must take, and I enjoy your enthusiasm. I will check out your work.

Please, keep me in your prayers, so that I may enlighten others when reflecting on my journey toward publication.


---Myra Rutledge, Christian writer