We are so pleased that today’s guest is Heather Reid. You may know Heather from her role as a member of the fearsome Mod Squad for WU’s Facebook community. What you may not know is that Heather is both American and British and has called six different cities in three different countries, home. Her strong sense of wanderlust and craving for a new adventure mean you might find her wandering the moors of her beloved Scotland, exploring haunted castles, or hiking through a magical forest in search of fairies and sprites. When she’s not venturing into the unknown in her real life, she loves getting lost in the worlds of video games or curling up by the fire with good story. For now, this native Texan is back in the Lone Star State, settling down with her Scottish husband and dreaming up new novels to write.
Her debut young adult paranormal novel, PRETTY DARK NOTHING, releases April 23 by Month 9 Books. Please follow Heather on Twitter and on her Facebook page to learn more. We are excited to support Heather’s debut.
Take it away, Heather!
We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.” – Woodrow Wilson
Should I hold or should I fold? A lot of writers wonder when enough is enough, especially when it comes to selling their first novel. How do you know if it’s time to give up on a manuscript and move on or keep striving to find a home for it? Most of us are all too familiar with that feeling of pouring our hearts out on the page only to hit a wall when it comes time to release our first baby into the world. Rejections come hard and fast. They hurt, and we begin to believe the age-old tale that our first book will never sell.
That’s exactly where I found myself seven years ago. After three long years of drafting, revising, and polishing the YA paranormal novel that would later become my debut, Pretty Dark Nothing, I took a leap of faith and sent it out into the world. After several rejections, I got what I thought was my golden ticket. An editor from one of the Big Six asked for a full. I could hardly contain myself. She was excited about the project and gushed enthusiastically about the first thirty pages. This was it. It had to be. So I submitted and waited. Nine months later I received a nice ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter. Devastated, I convinced myself that if this editor didn’t want it, nobody else would either. It was time to give up. I threw the manuscript in a box and tried to forget about it, move on, write something new.
But what if you can’t? How do you know your first novel is worth fighting for?
Start Something New. Sometimes you have to decide to give up before you can figure out that you shouldn’t. I started several other stories, but none of them excited me as much as my first. The characters wouldn’t let me go. They nagged me, kept me up at night, told me not to give up on them. They wouldn’t be ignored. I wanted to give up on my story, but the story didn’t want to give up on me. If you’ve tried writing something new, but still think about your first novel, your story may not be done with you yet either.
Consider Personal Rejections. If you get one or more personal rejections, you’re too close to give up. This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes rejection is too much to take. Give yourself space to feel the disappointment, but don’t let one close call paralyze you like I did. Let it empower you instead. Keep knocking on doors, keep revising, and exhaust all your options before moving on.
Check Your Emotions. Make sure you’re being objective about your manuscript and that you’re serving the story and not yourself. Be brutal and murder your darlings. Can you still see room for improvement? Can you see yourself going through yet another round of revisions? Deep down I still believed Pretty Dark Nothing had potential, but after some time away, I could see where it needed work. I tore the manuscript apart; I threw half of it out and started fresh. I spent eight months rewriting and reworking the entire story. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make the story work? If so, keep fighting.
Don’t Be In A Rush. This is not a race. Take your time to learn the craft and write the best story you can. If you believe your story is worth telling, slow down, take a deep breath, and stick with it. You will find the right home at the right time. Don’t let others dictate if or when you keep working on your story. Only you can decide what’s right for you.
It would have been so much easier to give up and start something new, but I’m glad I kept fighting for Pretty Dark Nothing. It took six more years to find a publisher, but when I did, it sold in a two-book deal. I truly believe timing is everything and that things happen for a reason. Sticking with Pretty Dark Nothing taught me determination, persistence, and patience, and turned me into a self-editing pro.
Whether you decide to hold or fold your first novel, don’t give up on your dream. If you’re willing to work at it, if you’ve got the vision, the passion, the fire in your soul to be a writer, if you can’t imagine doing anything else in the world, your dream will come true. When you least expect it. When you feel like it’s never going to happen, just remember to pick yourself up, get back to your laptop, and keep writing.
So in the words of Henry David Thoreau:
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Have you given up on one of your novels? How did you decide when to move on? At the other end of the spectrum, do you have a story that won’t let go? Do you think the story is worth fighting for? Why or why not?