Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Publishing a Novel

I've debated for three months whether to be perfectly honest about what I've been through the last few months and I decided that it's not really that big of a secret (except that at first I was just so humiliated and depressed and trying not to think I was the world's worst writer ever).

AND my agent assures me that I am NOT ALONE. That this sort of thing happens all the time.

Writers, I think, just do NOT want to talk about it. Because: it's humiliating, depressing and you think you're the world's worst writer ever. Or writers talk AROUND it.

But today w'ere gonna hit the writing/publishing nail squarely on the head about something that could happen to you. I SINCERELY HOPE NOT though!

So . . .  Come with me back in time for just a moment so you'll understand the scenario . . .

Fall of 2008, about 20 months ago:

After two decades of serious writing, classes, critique groups, 3 published books that went nowhere due to a HUGE number of reasons (being orphaned 3 times, Meh covers, publishing house getting gobbled up and disappearing, no ARCS sent out for reviews), the last book pubbed 6 years previously (and in a state of terror that I'm a *has been* who will never publish another book again), and two years of agent querying, I finally sign with my Dream Agent and she promptly sells a 3-book deal for me to a wonderfully warm and nurturing and talented editor at Scholastic aka Gorgeous Editor. (Lesson to be learned: Keep writing new books while waiting to sell a book. I got a three-book deal because I had written more books. Right now, at this moment, I have two more novels ready to be subbed with 2 more partly written.)

Breakdown of books Scholastic bought in the Deal:
1. Middle Grade Novel already written, The Healing Spell (July, 2010)
2. Synopsis of a second MG novel, set in the same world as The Healing Spell - yet to be written
3. YA, already written, Secret Rites of the Goddess, an edgy belly dance/goddess temple novel set in the ancient Middle East

Scholastic decides that it will be best for me and the books if we publish the two MGs a year apart so they can build on one another and we'll publish the YA after that in a different season. Sounds good to me! But it means I have to get my derriere in gear and write the second MG NOW which is only in synopsis form. After I finish the revisions and copy edits for THE HEALING SPELL, I have about 10 months to write the second book - which is doable, although still fast for ME to finish the research, write and revise/cleanup to sub to my editor by April 2010.

I get to work. I do it. It's 300 pages, polished up, a dynamite plot (probably my best ever), critique group is raving about it, my agent thinks it's delicious and spine-tingling.

April, 2010: I send it off to my editor on time. Whew.

May, 2010: BAD NEWS. The manuscript is not what Scholastic was hoping for. It's too old for one thing, more of a tweener book and middle school, not that 10-11 year old elementary age group that The Healing Spell is. They wanted a true companion book that will be put INTO THE SCHOLASTIC BOOK CLUB AND BOOK FAIRS. What I wrote has hoodoo magic and beauty spells and hexes and voodoo poppet dolls - and the clubs and fairs won't take it.

My editor and agent TALK.
My agent talks to me to explain the likes/dislikes
My editor and I talk to clarify. The *voice* of my character is wrong, the plot is too much REAL Southern magic. I finally *get it* that I have to START OVER FROM PAGE ONE AND WRITE AN ENTIRE NEW BOOK.

Can this really be happening?!? My past year's work has to be stuck in a drawer???

The date that this manuscript has to be revised with my editor and goes to copy edits passes - like dust in the wind.

Publication for Summer of 2011 goes "Bye-bye". This book will be delayed, perhaps up to 6-9 months. Can I write another book in 8 months or so?

I am depressed, stunned, numb, doubting myself, wondering WHAT AM I GOING TO WRITE ABOUT? I HAVE TO

June, 2010: Start doing some fast brainstorming. Meet with my two trusted crit partners. Brainstorm like crazy. Make notes. Start outlining. Go into CRAZY LADY mode to get ready for the launch of THE HEALING SPELL consisting of 18 hour days and a million tasks.

July 1, 2010: LAUNCH of THE HEALING SPELL - YAY! No time to celebrate though because I'm packing for an 11 day trip with family and getting ready for 5 upcoming launch parties and blogger interviews and hundreds of emails. I get a phone call from my agent. She and Gorgeous Editor have talked. I'm actually AT the grocery store getting food and snacks for the 14 hour car drive the next day. We talk in the parking lot.

A date has become available for the second MG novel, November, 2011 IF I can write the entire book in the next 6 weeks! And here I thought 8 months was pushing it!

It's a STEAMY July day, I'm standing outside in the sun, sweating, loading groceries into the car which is now making funny noises and needs to be taken to a shop before we hit the road and potentially break down. I'm leaving in mere hours for our trip and family reunion 700 miles away.

Me: "But--But-- I'm leaving tomorrow for 10 days, that's practically half of July! And the book has to be done by August???

I think I've gone over the edge because I actually AGREE to try this.

July 13: Return home to four of the 5 book launch parties/events and unpack and start trying to write.

July 23-25: Gone again for hubby's family reunion

July 26: Start drafting again.

August 4th: Majorly push myself and FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT, 45,000 WORDS!!!

August 5: Clean up the first 5 chapters

August 6: Send 5 chapters to Gorgeous Editor. Get ready for book event in the afternoon and another one the very next day. MAJOR FAMILY CRISES ARE ALSO GOING ON. I keep crying a lot. Feel like I haven't slept in a month.

August 9: Gorgeous Editor loves 5 Chapters! She's going on her summer vacation now.

September 4th: Full manuscript, critiqued and cleaned-up, to be delivered, to my editor.

So I have two more weeks. I am now reading it through for the very first time.

Then I'll have about 6 weeks to do revisions with Gorgeous Editor before it needs to go to copy edits.

When this book goes to copy edits it will have been completely drafted, personally edited and editorially revised within a 3-4 month period.

I think the verdict is in: I am certifiably CRAZY.

The other 300 page manuscript??? Is it totally wasted?

I don't think any writing is ever wasted. I learned a lot writing that book, about character (what not to do) and pushing myself on Plot. And both my editor and agent agree that it could be a true YA novel with some revisions. So it's *resting* temporarily and I hope CIRCLE OF SECRETS will still be a book someday. There's nothing else out there in the "paranormal" world like it, actually.

There's also 100 pages of a very cool Victorian Paranormal Thriller I started this spring, too.

My next hard decision will be to decide which gets worked on next . . .

Eeevvviillll Smiiiillle.

Love this little girl! I wanna write her into one of my novels . . .


kathrynjankowski said...

Wow! Despite all the angst, I'm impressed that you were able to come through with a MS the editor liked.

It does make me wonder why a book bought on the basis of a synopsis (that I'm assuming noted the story included voodoo) was later turned down for the subject matter. Although, having taught elementary and middle grades, I would agree that voodoo is quite dark for younger readers. Definitely YA and up fare.

Congratulations on finding a new story that works!

Brian Herrera said...

My hero/ine!

Whenever I get caught in fear and self-doubt, I can now say: Remember...Kimberley did it.

And even though you're two week's out, I have every confidence you will meet this deadline too.

Congrats on your stamina, your fortitude, and your spirit! You rock!

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow - that's an amazing story. You should be very, very proud of yourself for handling it all. Good for you!

Christine Fonseca said...

I love reading the authenticity in this post! Thanks for sharring it with us.

Josh Healy said...

Hi, hope it's OK to contact you here. We would love to include your blog on our giveaway search engine: Giveaway Scout ( Have a look and if interested, use our online form to add your blog ( ). thanks, Josh

storyqueen said...

I love it when authors post the real deal about what goes on behind the scenes. And I bet Circle of Secrets WILL find a home someday.

I am so impressed that you cranked out that book so fast. All I can say is WOW.

VERY curious about new book!


Solvang Sherrie said...

Oh wow, my stomach was in KNOTS reading this. I can only imagine how stressed you must have been! Thank you for sharing your amazing story.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Hi everyone and thanks so much for your comments, your love and support! I cannot tell you how much it means to me.

Kathryn: You are so right. I'd envisioned it as an older novel, but Scholastic had envisioned it as straight MG and very *tame*. Our *visions* collided! :-)

Brian: Aww, Brian, you have a way with words that always make me feel like super woman. Thank you for that sweet message.

Jemi: Thanks so much for the kudos!

Christine: So glad the reality helped you (been livin' too much reality lately) - and just saw your linky love and mention on your blog - THANKS SO MUCH!

Josh: Will check you out . . .

Shelley: Thanks, dear! Yeah, I decided that I needed to quit being shy and help other writers know what can happen in the real world of publishing. Hope I didn't scare anyone off! I'm still extremely thrilled and excited to be with my Gorgeous Editor and Scholastic.

Sherrie: KNOTS is the perfect way to describe my last three months! You're welcome - and thank YOU for the kudos!

Love and Hugs everyone!

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Oh my goodness! Wow--thank you for sharing. It's nice to finally get a realistic pictures of some of the realities that writers can face. Good for you for pushing through and meeting your deadlines. You ROCK! ;)



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