Alara finds a home

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.

© Anyka - Fotolia.com

© Anyka – Fotolia.com

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.”

In His time. Not mine.

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.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

18 comments on “Alara finds a home

  1. Way to stick to it! My editor, C.L. Dyck, is a pupil of sorts of Jeff, and hadthe same advice of flushing out the high action sequences. One problem there has been that so much of the book is action, so the word count has jumped considerably.

    That publisher sounds familiar. Why did you pick them? (Maybe idea for future blog post.)

    • I met Ramona at a conference. Other than Jeff, she was the only editor there accepting SpecFic. OakTara also published C. Kevin Thompson’s The Serpent’s Grasp, so I was confident about the quality of work they do.

  2. So excited for you Kristen! Congratulations! I especially loved your remark about God editing you. I can totally relate to that 🙂

  3. Lioness, you know I’m thrilled for you. You’ve handled the whole journey (from my perspective) with the right blend of humility and stubborness to identify the problems but remain true to the story you wanted to tell.

    Well done, m’dear. Well done.

  4. Congratulations! That’s so exciting! And thanks for the encouragement.

  5. Congrats!!!! Gosh, two in one week!

  6. I ditto Will. Great comment. I desperately and continually need His editing and am so thankful He promises never to stop. Congratulations!

  7. Congratulations, Kristen! What a great testimony to God’s faithfulness and God-inspired perseverance!

  8. […] Kristen recently signed a four book contract with Oak Tara for her novel The Prophet’s Chronicle: Alara’s Call, and The Prophet’s Chronicle series. She blogged about this monumental experience: “Alara finds a home.” […]

  9. […] years, my big hairy audacious goal was a four-book contract for my fantasy series. When that actually happened—I about fell over. I also got to work with an illustrator on the […]

  10. I can totally relate to the part about God editing the author during the waiting process, too. It’s so easy to become bitter, but when we give it over to God, He truly does bring it about in His timing. Thank you for sharing your story, Kristen, and congrats again!

  11. […] Kristen recently signed a four book contract with Oak Tara for her novel The Prophet’s Chronicle: Alara’s Call, and The Prophet’s Chronicle series. She blogged about this monumental experience: “Alara finds a home.” […]

  12. […] In my case, I knew my book was too long, but I had cut as much as I could. I needed an objective opinion about what parts needed to go, and my writing coach delivered that. I took his report and went off and made those changes, and eventually landed a four-book contract. […]

  13. […] Many of you have walked with me lo, these many years, ever since the Marcher Lord Select Contest of 2009, when Alara’s Call (then known by a much lamer title that shall not be spoken here) was voted off the island in the first round. You may remember when I announced that OakTara had given me a four-book contract for The Prophet’s Chronicle series. […]

  14. […] my angst is amplified by the fact that I once thought I had arrived. I had the four-book contract—the over-the-top big hairy audacious dream. Having that fall through rattled my nerves. Now I’m […]

  15. […] were days when all I could do was take a single step. There were times I felt as if I had made huge leaps, and times I had terrible […]

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