I’ll be honest. I was actually very sure my manuscript for the first book I ever wrote would be turned down when I went knocking on the doors of four publishers last year, heavy tome in tow.
And it was.
All four times!
But the latest and final rejection was probably the most definitive since it came from arguably the biggest player in the local traditional book publishing industry.
To be specific, this publisher said the first half of my manuscript was “ok”. But the rest “rambled and sounded self-indulgent”!
Was I offended by that last comment?
Not in the least.
How I started my manuscript
Followers of my blog (aww thanks guys!) might recall that I’ve uploaded many posts here in the past about my writing journey.
This journey really began in earnest in the second quarter of 2019 when I launched this blog.
Since then, I’ve churned out weekly essays, op-eds, reviews, and poems. Come rain or shine. No exceptions (aside from annual breaks in December).
Like a gym rat doggedly building up physical muscles several times a week, I too began building my writing muscles with this strict weekly regimen of essays, op-eds, reviews, and poems.
Later that same year, I picked up the pace when I began to conceptualize the idea for a book.
This was after completing a series of online writing courses that opened my eyes to the possibility that even a novice like me could knock out a book-length memoir if I put my mind to it.
And if I had a strategy.
Which I did.
That strategy was simple in concept but exhausting in execution.
What was it?
- Write daily for five days out of every seven.
- Complete up to three pages or roughly 750 words every time.
- Stick to this regimen regardless of holidays or life events that interrupt.
- And voila! In six to seven months, some 90,000 words — the equivalent of an approximately 300-page book, give or take — will magically appear.
And so in July 2020, I successfully wrapped up the first vomit draft of my maiden manuscript, a manuscript I mapped out at the end of 2019, and began writing at the start of 2020 using aforesaid strategy.
That 2020 was the start of the Covid pandemic helped too. What else was there for a writer to do under lockdown conditions right?
How I got stuck with my manuscript
Sadly the discipline I had to complete that first draft did not carry over to subsequent rewrites.
Not for lack of trying though. In the ensuing months, I did my best to come back to my manuscript for the painful but necessary process of editing and rewriting. As Hemingway once famously said: “The first draft of anything is shit.” This is Hemingway talking people! So who am I to even think my first draft is good enough?
And while I also painstakingly chronicled my rewriting process in several blog posts before, the truth became clearer as day after endless day dragged on: The heart and discipline I had shown from January to July 2020 that led to my first-ever manuscript had left me!
Don’t ask me why (I’m still sorting that out). Just know that despite coming back again and again to make piecemeal edits, I never really heft the beast from bow to stern like I ought to.
Somehow, I was stuck beautifying the first half of the manuscript but steering clear of the second half. (Any wonder that the fourth publisher said my manuscript “rambled”?)
Anyway, fast forward to 2022. My rough draft of a manuscript had patiently waited for two years in a forgotten corner of my work desk. Hoping its master would look at it, pick it up, and give it a good makeover again. Or at the very least not ignore it.
I knew better though, or so I thought. I knew I needed someone else to take a look at it and point me in the right direction to improve it.
Knocking on four publisher’s doors
This next bit can best be described as blessings that landed on my lap.
For a nobody like me with barely any resources or connections (or so I thought) in the fortress-like world of traditional publishing, I somehow managed to circumvent the usual routes to seemingly-untouchable publishers (usual routes being cold-calling and submitting unsolicited manuscripts).
For as it turned out, I had one friend who just happened to know someone who knew a major publisher. And a friend of my wife’s who knew a publisher. And another friend from church who knew not one but two or three other publishers.
Before I knew it, I found myself in 2022 with four direct connections to four different publishers.
All I had to do was submit my manuscript.
I’m forever indebted to these kind friends for opening doors for me. Finally, I was getting help to vet my work so I can know once and for all if it was any good.
Or if it had at least the potential to be.
Now I know. And I’m happy.
Fast forward to, well, now.
With that fourth and final rejection coming in this week, I was surprisingly nonplussed.
I had expected at first to be disappointed (yes yes of course I am a little). A normal reaction to rejection right?
But instead, what I really felt was a deep sense of relief and gratitude.
Relief that I don’t have to respond beyond a “thanks for letting me know”. For I don’t actually feel I’m ready as yet for the “circus” that usually follows when a writer’s work is accepted for publication.
Gratitude, that I was even able to touch base with publishers who wouldn’t normally respond had I not had unexpected “connections” to them. And to get their responses, even if the responses were rejections.
So yes I’m actually very glad how things worked out in the end.
But just in case you might conclude I’ve given up, I’m also very happy to announce that I’ve not.
In fact, this whole experience has given me the learning and the impetus I’ve been looking for to plan my next move.
I’ll share more in future posts so please stay tuned okay?