Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.—James 1:4
I’ve been working on Alara’s Call for longer than I care to admit, but now my most persistent heroine has found a home. I’m thrilled to tell you that OakTara gave me a four-book contract for The Prophet’s Chronicle series.
This has been a long time coming, and I don’t just say that because it was three years, almost to the day, from pitch to acceptance.
Ages ago, I had a kind of vision — like watching a movie — of troops riding through a gate, flags flapping in the wind. I started writing to find out who those troops were and why they were there. Only the barest vestige of that scene remains in the book.
The first draft was awful, so I put it away and it sat untouched for years. Then the characters came back to me and I wrote it again, and it was awful again, and I put it away again for years. I went through that cycle eight times before I came up with a version that was not bad and that I was willing to let people read, but it was 180,000 words long. I got it down to 160k on my own and then got stuck.
I described in another post how I came to hire Jeff Gerke as my book doctor. He said it was brilliant but bloated. He identified the boring parts that needed to come out, and the parts (like the fight scenes) where I’d been too brief and needed to go into more detail.
I pitched the book to Ramona Tucker of OakTara three years ago, and she said, “That’s a great plot!” and asked for the full manuscript. I sent it, and didn’t hear back from her, so I assumed she wasn’t interested and kept pitching it to others.
I went through several years of rejections from editors and agents for various reasons, most of which boil down to “does not meet our needs at this time.”
I made the mistake of telling one agent just how long a journey I’d been on with this book. The agent said if I’d gone that long without finding a publisher, I should probably give up and try something else.
It’s the only time an agent ever made me cry.
I wept and prayed over those words. Was that really what God had to teach me at that conference? The first thing that came to mind was Diana Ball’s song, “He makes all things beautiful in his time.”
I was comparing submission notes with Will Ramirez at the ACFW conference last fall, and he suggested I follow up with Ramona to see whether she’d ever even gotten the manuscript. So I sent an e-mail reminding her of our meeting and asking whether she wanted to see the new, improved version.
After I sent my follow-up, she gave the story another look, and e-mailed me last week saying yes, she was interested and would like to see the new version and synopses for the sequels. So I sent all that over and she came back with a four-book contract.
Since I was utterly unable to sleep that night, I lay awake, praying: Why, Lord? Why three years from pitch to contract?
In the interim, Alara’s Call had been workshopped, critiqued, beta-read and given a new title. Many of the agents and editors who rejected the book offered feedback, much of which I used. Only when the book was in the right shape did the door open.
Not only the book, but also the author. God edited me in those three years, deleting the arrogance and impatience and adding humility and serenity.
So the message I have to share for those of you on this crazy journey toward publication is that, in addition to craft, key elements are patience, perseverance, and follow-up.
Never give up.