Sometimes a 'No' is the best thing that can happen.
Does this sound paradoxical? How can a NO be good? After all isn't it a dreaded word. NO. Rejection, refusal is hardly a good thing. It's humiliating.
My second novel was rejected and here's my story about how I refused to live with a NO and made it into YES!
I was more than sure that my publisher who embraced my first novel – A Forgotten Affair – would welcome my Novel 2 with equal enthusiasm. How could they not? They gave me a launch any debut author could dream of. So in the summer of 2017 when I submitted Novel 2 to them, I was sure of hearing an Yes from them. The final decision was conveyed to me around September end and it was a NO. They tried to sugar coat their refusal politely.
'Oh! We like the story but don't know how to market it.'
These are just euphemisms and I've been a writer for long enough to know what that meant. They didn't like it.
It wasn't easy. It was extremely upsetting and very humiliating. Words are my thing. Writing is my oxygen and I had spent a very long with the story. How could my story get rejected? Words fail me as I try to describe how awful I felt. I read the final email again and again to assure myself that I was reading right. Yes, there was no mistake. It was a NO. Everyone knew I'd writing my second book, so people asked often, when is the next one due. I struggled to tell them that the book had been turned down.
I didn't share my angst with my family and friends. But my son…he is something else. He understands my silence better than others, even myself. And the boy doesn't mince words.
"Mom, you can do much better. This version is ok-ok. It's not really great at all. You can do much better than this." He always hits the nail on the bull's eye and I always take his words seriously because he doesn't just criticize. He backs it up with detailed explanation. I sat down to think impartially. Years of writing for companies taught me to be critical and impartial about my work. I can be insanely passionate about my work and yet see it sans sentiment. I'm passionate but not sentimental about my work. I believe, a big part of writing is thinking and just staring at the wall. That's what I did. I thought and thought and thought about what I could do to make the story better.
By the time the year ended, I had decided that I would rewrite the story completely. Something amazing happened in the interim. Another reputed publisher expressed interest in the MS and I told them, "I want to rewrite the whole story. I have this crazy mad idea in my head and I want to do it." This was either the bravevest or the most stupid thing that I was setting out to do. A completely new and different version of the story had begun taking shape in my head. This wasn't minor changes in the story. It would be a complete re-write. This would mean trashing 80K words and writing a new story with just the skeleton of the earlier version.
As I said, this was either the bravest or the stupidest thing that I was setting out to do.
January 2018 I began. Possessed, obsessed and determined to push myself to do better than my best, I began. Sometime around this time I found Martha Alderson's The Plot Whisperer. It is my Bible. Yes, the world swears by Stephen King's On Writing. I have read King's book time and over again but Plot Whisperer is the book to chew and digest if you want to learn the nuts & bolts of the writing process. This book lays it down for you; how to focus on the plot. It's a must for every writer.
Here's what I did with my second novel: apart from changing the story completely, I changed the narrative style to first person. Three people speak throughout the story in simple past and simple present – because the story has a back & current story. This is a new and challenging narrative structure to write in and was extremely difficult to do it.
From a normal relationship story I converted Novel2 into a dark edgy domestic thriller. The story is about deception lies and games people play to control others and get what they want at all costs. Everyone is a liar. No one can be trusted and everyone has an ulterior motive.
I worked 7 days a week for 5-6 hours a day and finished 90K words in 5 months. I stayed away from it for a month to give myself the proverbial fresh pair of eyes and then sat down to edit it. I took 3 months to edit and then I resubmitted it to Harper Collins. My literary agent submitted it to some others too. October 31 I received the offer of acceptance from HC. They loved it and my book is one of the lead titles for 2019. Two other publishers also gave the nod but I chose to go with HC. I began my journey with them and don't see the need to go elsewhere.
But this isn't just about accepted by one of the best publisher in the country. This is about not getting defeated by a NO and pushing myself to write a better story. I'm very happy that the earlier version got rejected; if it hadn't then I would have never pushed myself to write the new version which I have to admit is much better.
Sometimes when a door closes on our face, it is humiliating but it's because we need to move in a different direction. Left to ourselves may be we wouldn't venture there so Life decides to push us. Whether we like it or not, believe it or not; Heaven's got a plan for all of us.
The book will be out in the summer of 2019. Whatever may the outcome or the verdict of the book be, I'm happy because I pushed myself, I did better than my best, I gave it my all and then some more. Yes, that's what matters.
And, my son loves the new version. Yes! that felt good. To hear him say, wow! Mom!!