Friday, October 19, 2007

On Losing

by Susan Seyfarth


The best romances are so messy, aren't they? Falling in love for real means tossing aside your cool, embracing your inner geek and splatting your heart right there on the pavement at the feet of your beloved. It means showing the entire world (figuratively speaking, of course) what you look like naked. Writing a romance is no different. Readers want to see that kind of emotional committment on every page, and that means the writer has to feel it. Has to mean it. It's exhilarating, exhausting, wonderful work, and we love to see it rewarded. So we Banditas bust out the bucket boots and rum (or was it bucket boots of rum? It all gets so hazy...) every time one of our fellow writers gets The Call.

You know, The Call? The one where the faithful and patient agent who's been hawking your work all over NYC (or the insightful and prescient editor who's been looking at your manuscript for a year or two) picks up the phone, dials your number and says, "Hey, want to sell a book today?"

At least that's how I've been told it goes. :-) I'm still waiting for a Call Story of my own, but that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about not getting the call. Not winning the contest. Not being the best or the brightest or the fastest. I want to talk about -- let's just say it -- losing.

Yeah, losing. We don't talk about it much because, wow, does it hurt to splat your heart across the pavement -- or the page -- and have somebody reject it. But losing has a lot to recommend it. Seriously. Stick with me here, I'll explain.

I earned my way into the Bandit Lair the usual way: I finaled in RWA's 2006 Golden Heart contest for excellence in romantic fiction. And that's a Big Deal, right? I mean, it's only the biggest contest in our field. It's supposed to get the finalists attention from People Who Matter, shoot us straight to the top of the slush pile. This was vindication for three years of scrounging out a little time to write while the baby slept and the laundry piled up. I was finally On My Way. Right?

Well. Not so much. First of all, I didn't win. I didn't sell the book that finaled, either. But no matter. Onward and upward, right? If I wrote one book that could final, surely my next book would sell. So I kept carving out that writing time, kept scribbling away. I wrote what I felt certain was The One. I labored over those all-important first three chapters, polished them to a blinding glare and sent them off to the 2007 Golden Heart contest with supreme confidence. This time I would win. I was a former finalist. I knew what it took, right?

Well. Not so much. This time, I didn't even final. I didn't even score in the top 25%. I'd splashed my heart all over the page (again) only to have the reading public go "meh." Ouch. But this is where it gets good. This is where losing starts to mean something. Because then I had a decision to make. Should I keep going? Was it worth it? I'd been breaking my heart with this writing business for four years. What if I'm never going to be good enough? What if I'm never going to have anything to say that people want to hear, or the skill to say it in a compelling way? Was it time to quit?

I don't know what I should have done, but I'll tell you what I did. I sat down and wrote another book. And every single day I sat down at the keyboard was an act of courage. It was a conscious decision to strip naked in front of an unconcerned audience, splat down my heart and try again. Fail again, if that was what it took. Losing forced me to screw up my courage and commit. It forced me to admit that I'm not good enough yet and dedicate myself to closing the gap. It both humbled me and lifted me up, if that makes sense. Have I learned to love rejection? Well, no. But I'm still writing, and I'm counting that as a win.

So what about you? Tell us your losing story! What was the best lesson losing, being dumped or being fired ever taught you? Where's that silver lining?

41 comments:

DownUnderGirl said...

Cheers to you and your courage Susan - no wonder you're a Bandita. Only a writer knows the intestinal fortitude required to keep putting your heart out there knowing full well that a splat could be just around the corner.

My first book was rejected. No great surprise - it was terrible. I know this because I recently got it out and thought - can't be that bad. Nup. Wrong. Really, really bad.
But, to this day, when people ask me which of the books I have written is my favourite I always say my first one.
Two reasons -
1. I wrote a book. A whole book and bad or not, rejected or not, no-one could take that from me. It put me way ahead of the yeah-I'm-gonna-write-a-book-one-day dreamers.
2. Rejection is the best damn motivator there is. It made me stop and think. It made me realise I needed to work at it, learn the craft, do my apprenticeship.

It was the biggest, baddest, messiest pavement splat but it made me determined to keep at it until I succeeded.

I recommend everyone try it.
At least once anyway ;-)

Amy

Caren Crane said...

I win, I win! I get the Golden Rooster! I haven't been first commenter in ages!! Um, where is everyone?

Anyway, I have a big old loser story. I mean, besides all the writing loser stories (I have tons of those). I got fired from my last job. Yep, you heard it--fired.

It was the only job I've ever been fired from. I was fired because I decided to take an unpopular stance. I took issue with our sales force, who were demonstrating a product still in development when they went to customer sites, knowing the customers thought that was the product they would get. Or at least a comparable one.

But, the product I was in charge of installing at the customer site training the people to use and supporting daily, was a much clunkier, uglier one with no pretty user interface. It looked like what it was: an old Cobol system.

When I told my manager that I didn't want to be in the position of having to explain why we were installing this old, clunky software and not the fancy new one, I was fired. The company was more concerned with making sales than with being honest with their customers. They didn't care about those of us charged with doing the installation and making the excuses.

My conclusion was that I didn't want to work for a company like that. I was happy they fired me. I found a great job within three weeks. Obviously, when that wrong door close, the right window opened.

Caren Crane said...

Amy, curse you! You probably type much faster than I do, too. Arrrrr....Enjoy that Golden Rooster. It may disappear one day...

Christie Kelley said...

See what happens when the kids don't have school -- I don't get to be first poster. Oh well.

Caren, you gave me the chills. In another life I was a Cobol programmer. Really, I always enjoyed Cobol. It was when I was forced into GUI development that I started hating my job.

Anyway, back on topic. I haven't been fired only laid-off and I knew that was coming because I had only been with the company 6mo.

But I can certainly relate on the writing contest arena. Going back and looking at my contest results I realized that I have only placed 1st in one contest with one ms. And it wasn't the ms that finaled in the GH or is being published.

Every Night I'm Yours (or Her Scandalous Proposal as it was known on the contest circuit) only finaled in three or four contests. And that's not from lack of entering, that ms went everywhere.

So my losing story is what I love to talk about--not giving up. If I had given up on my manuscript because it wasn't doing well on the contest circuit it never would have been my first published book.

Caren Crane said...

Oh, and just so everyone knows, Susan WON the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest. So, while she still has some stories about losing, she is a big WINNER this week. Woo hoo!

Susan Seyfarth said...

downundergirl -- I feel your pain, sister. I, too, have dragged that first masterpiece out from under the bed, certain there was something salvagable in there. Um, not so much. :-) But you're so right about that first book being an accomplishment & something to be proud of, no matter how much we cringe reading them. Everybody thinks they can write a book. Very, very few of us HAVE written a book. Fewer still go on to write another after that first rejection. We're made of tough stuff, we romance writers! Way to splat, down under girl!

Out of curiosity, though, any chance you'd share the plot line of your first masterpiece? Or just the title? :-)

Kirsten said...

Ya'll crack me up, tryin' so hard to be the Golden Rooster!

What a great post, Susan, and CONGRATULATIONS again on your IGO win! You rock!!

Rejection of my writing, I have to say, has been good for me. Sick, but true. Like Amy said, I can't imagine any better motivator. If I had sold that first book, I wouldn't have been nearly as obsessed with this whole writing gig. I work a full time job and have two small kids, but I write every day, usually twice a day, and I've written (almost) five books in (almost) three years.

If that first one had sold? I bet the stats would be a little different. Part of what gets me up in the morning is the conviction that THEY ARE ALL WRONG and I'M GOING TO GET THIS RIGHT! So I keep writing and writing. I write to get better and I write because I refuse to let myself NOT succeed.

Of course, I love what I'm doing, too. Even 100+ rejections wouldn't keep me going if I didn't. :-) I mean, rejection is a great motivator and all, but in the end, you've got to love it, really love it, or it's all meaningless.

doglady said...

Congrats on the Golden Opportunity win, Susan! The first couple of contests I entered LOST IN LOVE got hammered. OUCH!! It was really disappointing, but for some reason - either I am masochistic or just stubborn - I entered it in several more. It finaled in three and won one so far. I hear from one of the others tomorrow. EEEEK. I don't care what anyone says it ALWAYS hurts when someone rejects your work. ALWAYS. The key is to keep getting back up. I think you know I was a professional opera singer. My voice teacher told me at the beginning "Don't do this unless you just can't help yourself." Good advice for writing as well. I auditioned for roles I really, really wanted in the U.S. I poured my heart out in my auditions and got rejected every time. One director said "You sound like Maria Callas on steroids." OUCH. I went to Austria and auditioned for the Mozarteum, got in. Auditioned for roles, got 'em. Apparently in Europe they LIKE Maria Callas on steroids. Message - Use YOUR own unique voice, keep singing and you will find your audience.

Caren Crane said...

Doglady, well said! I recently got some contest feedback from three judges that went thus:
- great voice!
- great characters!
- great dialogue!
- slow pacing

Now I have to decide: do I change the pacing? I'm inclined to say no. Not because I can't change. Of course I could change. But the kind of story I write needs that pace. One said "it's like a coming-of-age story" (except ther heroine is 45 *g*). She was right! She thought that was a bad thing, but that was exactly what I was trying to write!

So, I suppose I'll keep "auditioning" until I find my audience. Onward and upward!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Caren -- You get a golden rooster in spirit. Nobody would be commenting if you hadn't actually posted the blog first!

And what IS it about software companies, huh? Back in my trainer days I broke that news to A LOT of angry clients. "Yeah, that'll be a great feature six versions from now. However, in the version YOU just bought..." I'm so impressed with you for standing on principle like that!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Christie--what an inspiring story! Maybe we should start putting together all our anti-call stories. Wouldn't it be fun to read that one last stinging rejection of a ms right next to the story of how it sold??

Doglady -- I loved your rejection story, too! Maria Callais on steroids, indeed! Talent is one thing, but combined with persistence & nerve & courage? Unstoppable! Good on you! And good luck with tomorrow's contest announcement! Sending good thoughts your way!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Kirsten -- Awwwwww, thanks. That's high praise, considering that you're the most disciplined & prolific writer I know. And I agree that rejection is ultimately a good thing, if only because it makes us to determined to prove all the haters wrong! :-)

Doglady said it best: "Don't do this unless you just can't help it." That's us in a nutshell, isn't it ladies? :-)

And Caren? You're absolutely right to stand your ground on not changing your pacing. Tell the story you have in your heart, & don't let anybody tell you it's not the right one or you're not telling it the right way. Minor details, sure, change 'em. But anything that moves you away from the heart of the story you want to tell? Nope. You'll find your audience.

Kate Carlisle said...

Susan, your post touched my heart and made me cringe at the same time. I've been there, felt that pain so many times. Why do we do it? Why do we get back on that stage and dance naked time after time? (Ugh, scary visual, but you get the idea!)

Well really, what's the alternative? Give up? Stop writing? Are you kidding? And give those naysayers the upper hand? I don't think so!

So we just keep going. We learn from our mistakes and our writing gets better and we study the marketplace and the industry and we get smart and determined and focused and we simply never give up.

And one of these days, we pick up the phone...and it's The Call!!

So here's the deal: Never give up your dream. Even if it takes twenty years. Because no matter how long it takes, when that phone rings, it will all have been worth it. ;-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Thanks, eveybody, for all the congrats on my IGO win! I was totally floored. I'd never won anything before, & was so prepared to place third that I'd already written this blog about losing. I was all prepared to be philosophical about it. So prepared, in fact, that when the lady told me I placed first, I said, "Um, what?" Not exactly a gracious thank you, but the best I could manage. :-)

So, losing is good for the soul, yes. But winning feels nice, too. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Kate! Naked dancing is never a bad thing! Happens all the time in this house. (I'm talking about my children, people. You can't keep clothes on anybody under five, I'm convinced.) But I agree -- it's so tough to keep going, splat after splat, but each no is going to make the eventual yes that much more meaningful, right? It's like Kirsten said -- all those nos give us discipline & determination. They're the M in our own personal GMC!

Joan said...

Susan,

Fantastic inagural post!

I have NO clue about computer programs (I mean this morning my connection wouldn't work to my high speed internet. I called and got recorded suggestions on what to do. God Bless whoever invented "turning it off for 2 min.") but I had an incident early on that fueled my natural determination.

Picture this (as Sophia from the Golden Girls would say)PRP high school circa (never mind). My 10th grade sciene teacher Mr. Granacher told us we had to put together an exhibit for the science fair. I decided I wanted to make a working model of an artisian well. I STILL can see his look of disbelief and hear him say I couldn't do it.

Oh, can't I?

I did (with a little help from my Daddy who worked in a paint factory and got me plastic test tubes). I also won 2nd place!

Hah! There!

Now, whenever I get feedback etc. that says "I can't" The Granacher Theroem kicks in. Add to that my innate Irish spirit and bam!

My first manuscript was THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE. The version now is no where near the version I began with...not after several years of pounding it with a hammmer. But by golly, I got that puppy in shape!

The Granacher Theroem....it's a good thing.

PS Huge congrats on wininng the IGO! Way to go!

PSS My next day off I'm staying up ALL night and staring at the blog so I can be first to answer. The Golden Rooster will be mine Bahahahahaha

Susan Seyfarth said...

Okay, ladies, I'm going to be out of touch for a little while. My eldest daughter just split her chin open & we're off to see about getting her patched up. It's minor -- no 911 emergency or anything -- but somewhat beyond a bandaid. That's my girl. Always above average. :-)

I'll check in again this afternoon. Have fun while I'm away!

Susan

Christie Kelley said...

Susan,

Funny thing was the two rejections I received from agents after I sold. One was the typical Dear Author letter. The second one was a "not for me" scribbled on the back of my sase. There was nothing inside the envelope. Just the scribble on the outside.

If I hadn't already sold when that one came in it might really have stung. In this case it didn't.

Christie Kelley said...

Oh Susan! I just read your last post. I hope your daughter is okay.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Great post, Susan!
It's a Bandita kind of thing, you know - and an Aussie one, it seems - to live by the code of Winston Churchill and NEVER GIVE UP! :> Slowly but surely (Don't call me shirley!) we Banditas are tipping the scale from unpublished to published. It's really amazing to watch and to be part of. I keep thinking about the person who, defeated, dragged down and beaten says, "the only way to actually lose is to stop, to give up on yourself and your dream." I forget what movie it's from or book, but I have this vivid mental picture of it. Maybe I made it up. Who knows, but the sentiment is right.
I also just heard a great "Never Give Up" story just yesterday. It's about a guy named Joe. He was a writer too, but for screen and TV. Joe had a great story, but it was set in outer space. Hmmm. Doesn't sell that well in Hollywood. Despite that, he kept going. He wrote Babylon 5, a long-running series and several other things that did eventually get picked up and do very well. As a friend of mine put it, he pioneered the long-story-arc concept in a series long before Heroes or Lost. You can see him talk about not giving up on dreams here, skip all the sales stuff and click on the clip of Joe:

http://www.neversurrenderdreams.com

That's what we write about; men and women who never give up on themselves or their dreams...or find a reason in our books to give it one last shot... Its also what we do. Persevere. Give it another shot. Go for it. Published writers we admire had to do it, and they made it. Bandita's do it. WE can do it. (Rah, rah! Go Bandita's!)

I'll step away from the pulpit now. Verrrrrry farrrrr away...

Oh, and BTW, Susan, you're SUCH a Bandita! I was LOL about the bucket boots full of rum. Grins.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Oh, and Amy, you GO girl! :> Anyone who can sing opera gets an "I'm not worthy" bow in thier direction from me. Wow. That is a hard taskmaster too.

Caren, hooray on you for standing up for your principles. Doesn't surprise me in the least and the nice reward of a new job three weeks later doesn't stink either. :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan, to answer your question about losing - which I didn't because I was prostheletizing about never giving up, sorry - I think the 2007 GH was my most "teaching" loss. I was so SURE I'd place again.
Um, no.
The mss which had finaled (and sold this year) placed second-quartile. The paranormal I've entered three years in a row once again placed in the top quartile third year), but was (once again) shot down by the "East German Judge" as we so euphemistically (sp!) called that one stinky score - mine was 4.5 - in the otherwise lovely 9's.
Christie, I had to laugh about the agent letters after the sale. Got that too. One of them said the book started slowly and the characters were unmotivated. (Um, there explosions, a gun fight and a mother fighting for her son in the first 10 pages...can you tell me what you consider "fast-pacing"?)
Thankfully, like you, I'd sold it and could just sort of snork at the whole thing. So to step back up to the pulpit for JUST a moment...when you get that rejection letter, pretend you just sold and laugh maniacally as you toss it into the tax file. Or picture that scene from Pretty Woman where she walks back into the shop where they'd refused to serve her. "You work on commission, don't you?" (lifts $1000's in clothes in shopping bags) "Biiiig mistake. Big mistake." Bwa-ha-ha! Snork.
(Backing slowly away from the pulpit again...)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan! I hope your above-average daughter is okay...those chin splits are tough to heal. (Rubs scar, yep, hard to heal.)

Donna MacMeans said...

Susan - Great post.
My positive loss was finaling in the 1998 Golden Heart. No, I didn't win, but it was my very first book. Finaling in that contest verified what I felt soul deep - that I could write. Of course it took two more manuscripts to write something marketable ;-) and I know that if that first book had sold I wouldn't have worked so hard on learning craft and business. So that's my favorite loss.

As for rejections...I've had a few ;-). One from an agent after I sold Mrs. Brimley which suggested I change things and then she'd take another look at it. The rejection I received from a well-known, well-regarded editor right before Atlanta actually had me in tears. Yeah - we put our hearts out there, even when we're old enough to know better.

Doglady - you go girl! Your posts are so inspirational and you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for your wonderful stories and insight.

Keira Soleore said...

Susan, I loved that photo of the kid boating in a bowl during a flood. And that's what you've been doing. Hats off to you for your courage and perseverance.

Foanna wrote a great article in one of the recent RWRs about this same topic: Should rejection/losing cause you to lose heart? And the answer from her interviewees always came back a resounding NO.

Susan, are those bucket boots full of hot, buttered rum? Count me in, do. Yo Ho ho!

DogLady, you're simply amazing.

My loss story is more personal, not writing-related. It's my health and how pain rejects your plans for the week, for the day. And yet you do what you have to do, because you must to do it, or you'd be forced to admit defeat and go splat on the pavement. Onwards ho.

Claudia Dain said...

Hope Baby Girl is okay!

Actually, I think rejection and failure can teach something as valid as what's already been mentioned. If you want to quit, you should. Not everyone is made for this crazy life of being a published author and there's no shame in realizing that.

How's that for hardball? *G*

Cassondra said...

Susan,
You're brilliant at putting into words what we all feel--no question that you'll sell girlie--

Oh yeah. Any art is the risk of splat on the pavement with nobody to pick you up. Scares the bejeebers out of me.

I haven't done so well at bouncing back from the rejections. It generally stops me for far longer than it should. For some reason the I'll Show You doesn't happen for me. I don't know why.

Yes, I entered the GH again last year--same manuscript that finaled in 06, and finished....drum roll please.....in the bottom quarter. Yup.

That one bit rather hard, and it took me a bit to get going again. I AM going again though, with the help of the Banditas among others.

Christie I know you got some good scores on Her Scandalous Proposal because I remember judging that and loving it. It's been a long time but I remember liking it that well. So there. ;0) Had no idea that was yours, or that it turned into Every Night I'm Yours. Nice job. Another testament to not giving up.

Claudia Dain said...

Hey, wanted to add that I never entered a contest before I was published so pffffttt on all that! I also never enter the Rita; my publishing house does that.

I'm a heretic, I know, but contests aren't the be-all, end-all of anything. What do contests prove either way? Nothing! There are MANY published authors who've never won a single contest and yet they sell millions of beloved books to a wide fan base.

So please, I'm begging you, don't put any of your self-confidence into a contest score. And if begging doesn't work, I'll try whining. I have a really loud voice; whining is going to hurt you bad. *G*

Anna Campbell said...

Susan, fantastic post. And congrats on the IGO win! That's a major contest, my friend, so you are a major talent!

No Golden Rooster for me this morning. What is the world coming to?

Amy, I'd love to hear the premise of your first book. I've talked about my first book here before. It was the one about French partisan fighters in the Hundred Years War - Guerillas in the Mist I called it although officially it was Darkness Holds a Stranger which I still think is a good title! Pity about the rest of it. It was a bodice ripper in the style of Kathleen Woodiwiss and it was enormously long. But I still remember that magic of diving into that story every day and getting it down and living with those characters and waking up in the middle of the night so excited about some plot point, I couldn't sleep. It's a bit like falling in love, writing that first book, isn't it?

Pam, congratulations on your contest success. And I'm right in saying it's a first manuscript too, isn't it? That's just fantastic! As you can gather, most of the rest of us learn much more slowly! Good luck for the contest announcements.

Keira, thanks for mentioning that article. I found it so inspiring getting those stories from great writers who are huge successes now and seeing that I wasn't the only person who served a long apprenticeship. And all of them said they learnt stuff from that delay that nothing else could have taught them. Hope you're feeling better! Hang in there, Nutella Chick!

Anna Campbell said...

OK, I'm like Duchesse - too busy commenting on everyone else's marvellous comments to make a comment of my own!

Susan, I think your post was packed with wisdom. I certainly learn a lot more from losing than I ever learn from winning.

I was the sort of kid who did REALLY well in English in school and won prizes in local literary comps. At university, lecturers always commented on how well I wrote.

And you know what, all of that was the worst thing that could have happened to me!!!

It made me think I was there. It made me think when I sent off my first manuscripts that of course they'd buy, because my high school English teacher thought I was the bee's knees.

Man, did I have some painful learning to do. And when I say painful, I mean ouchy, humiliating, agonizing, long-lasting, ouchy, um... You get the picture.

But after whining a lot (hi, Claudia!), eventually I realized I needed to learn and learn and learn before I had a chance in this game. Learning and failing and trying again and failing and learning again and trying. All those things are good for the soul - and for the writing!

So hang in there, Susan. All of this will come in mighty handy when you're a bestseller!

Christine Wells said...

My goodness, what a wonderful post, Susan. You made me cry, girl, and if I were an editor reading this I'd give you a contract right away! A bucket boot of champagne for you!

We all collect our rejections along the way. I went through a progression of emotions, from tears to anger and finally to shrugs when those rejections came. Tears at the first rejection after a full ms read (I was positive I was going to sell my first ms--hahaha!) to anger at the agent who wrote that sending a form letter pained her as much as it did me (yeah, right) to a shrug when an agent wrote 'not my cup of tea'. But the longer I stuck at it, the more determined I became. Many things have come easily to me in life--I cruised through school, into university, into a job, but getting published is the one thing I've worked my butt off for, had setbacks, received rejections and come out with publication at the end of it. I think--I hope--some character has been built along the way.

Helen said...

Firstly crongratulations on your win Susan and I hope your daughter is alright.
I truly appaulde the courage and positivness that you Guys have to keep writting my guess is that regection can make you stronger make you a more determined writter.Keep the books coming Guys because I love reading.
I had applied for a trainee superviser position at work a few years ago and was regected so to speak but I really wanted that job and when they advertised it again a two years later I tried again this time I was succsesful and have really move up the ladder so to speak but I didn't give up with something I wanted and know that you Guys won't either keep up the good work and thanks for the wonderful books that I have read so far and the ones I am going to read in the future.
Have Fun
Helen

Christie Kelley said...

Cassondra, thank you for your comment on my ms. I had no idea you'd judged it. It wasn't that I didn't good scores, I just seemed to always get the one Russian judge. (or the Regency Nazi who said my heroine would never do such a thing).

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, congratulations on sticking to your guns and getting that promotion! Good on you! The US Bandits love it when we Aussies say that ;-)

Keira Soleore said...

A huge YEE-HAA to Kate for her first sale. So many pink ribbons! One per month, sometimes two. By next July, there'll be nary a one Bandita without a sale.

Foanna, your rooster's getting tarnished. Ahem. Perhaps what looks golden, isn't?

Keira-who's-now-retitled-Nutella-Chick

Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

Susan, great post (thought the little baby pic was cute too). Hope your daughter's chin is okay.

Caren, that totally sucks to be fired for having integrity. I'm indignant on your behalf.

So many have talked about finaling in the Golden Heart and then not selling. I've done that eight times. Yep, eight finals (with 5 different manuscripts). As of today, none of those manuscripts, two of which one the GH, have sold. But I was nothing if not determined and kept writing. I finally did sell, but still not one of those GH finalists. I'm still hopeful on some of them, but even if they never sell, they helped me reach other milestones in my career.

DownUnderGirl said...

Susan, I hope your daughter's chin is now nicely stitched. My ds did his when he was five on his scooter. He was in the park with my dd and my dh and I could hear him crying as they came back up the street and my husband says to me as he holds a bloodied t-shirt to my son's chin - get a bandaid. Cool, I think. Obviously not too bad. He pulls the shirt away to reveal a GGH - gaping great hole!!!! Five stitches later....

Anyway first book - Learning To Trust - premise was quite sound actually, just the execution was dubious.

Heroine had been a vicitm of domestic violence in a marriage of convenience (so she could put her kid brother through med school). Hero was her brother's boss - a surgeon who a few years before had performed an operation on her to save her life after her deadshit husband beat her half to death.
The story was her struggle to trust again.

I wrote it in 10 days. Yes, 10 days.
Hey, knock it off, I can hear the gasps all the way down here.
A chapter a day for 10 days. Need we say more about why it was rejected?
But like Foanna I was confident it would be accepted. I was an A grade english student and teachers would often call me aside over various assingments and ask - did YOU write that? I was always sooooo insulted. I felt like saying, do you KNOW my mother? My mother staunchly believed that our work had be OUR work and would never have written anything for us in a million years.
So, of course, right? Of course I was going to be accepted....

But like I said. Great motivator.

Hey Jeanne - thanks for the praise re my singing but really it stinks worse than my first book. I think that honour goes to doglady.

And Christie - I know you probably can' name names but I'd love to know who that agent was that scrawled on the back of your ms. I want to cross her off my list. How very, very unprofessional!!!

Amy

Anna Campbell said...

Amy, you know, I think being top of my class in English did me a lot more harm than good! Because you think you know everything and what you really need to learn is how to write emotion, how to create compelling characters, how to put together an edge-of-the-seat, reader-stay-up-till-midnight story. Took a long time for my head to get around the fact that I knew diddly squat when it came to being a REAL writer!

Oh, dear, these chin stories are making me feel a little faint! Susan, hope your daughter is OK.

Keira, are you cocking a snook at my golden (um, brass, um, plastic) golden rooster? Fie on you, madam!

Beth said...

Hope your daughter is okay, Susan!

Great post! The only contest I've ever won was the GH *g* But even that was bittersweet as that ms had been rejected a week before the conference. I came home and had three solid weeks of what should I do now?

I wasn't sure which direction I needed to go next. Just as I'd made the decision to query Superromance, I received The Call :-)

For the most part though, rejections didn't faze me. Even that last one, painful as it was only had me rethinking what to write next, not should I be writing? *g* I figured rejections are a part of writing and submitting so I tried to take them as best I could.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, everybody--

Sorry I've been AWOL all day! Getting my daughter patched up really knocked my day off schedule, but all is now well. Did you know that they now use some kind of superglue instead of stitches on the more minor gashes?? Yes, indeed, today I stood by while a medical professional GLUED my daughter's chin back together. Fascinating!

But, back to the blog:

Joan -- There's nothing more motivating than scorn, is there? A teacher or boss who says, "I don't think so, litty lady." Oooooh. I'll be cheering for you when you sell patrician's desire! (I'll cheer when you get that golden rooster, too!)

Christie -- They just scribbled on the back of your SASE?? For shame! I hope they regret that little bit of rudeness! Humph!

Jeanne -- It's all about believing in your story, isn't it? Perseverence, devotion, faith. Every trend has to start somewhere, right? And I love it that the book that failed to final in 07 sold for you! Can't wait to see it in print!

Oh, Donna, I SO know what you mean about being near tears over professional criticism! You keep thinking, "I'm a professional! This is work! We don't CRY at work!" And yet, because writing is so deeply personal (that whole splatting your heart on the pavement thing) it's hard to maintain that distance. And even if it were easy, would we want to? Feeling the story so deeply is what makes it leap off the page. We need to take it personally, or we're phoning it in, right?

Keira -- Hugs on pushing through the pain. I, too, took enormous heart from reading Anna's RWR column on never giving up. It made me feel like I was part of an underground sisterhood of sorts. :-) And you can fill the bucket boots with whatever kind of rum you like when you party with the banditas! Hot buttered sounds good to me!

Claudia -- I like hardball! That's what rejection does for me -- makes me play hardball. It forces clarity. It makes me look at my goals & reassess. Is this what I really want? Is this even something I can do? Rejection makes me rededicate myself to something that gives me a deep satisfaction, published or no. And thanks SO MUCH for the perspective on contests. I think we unpubbeds put a lot of stock into them that isn't always merited.

Cassondra -- Oh, I feel your pain! That big, awful SPLAT. Like you said, though, any artistic endeavor demands that kind of vulnerability, & SPLAT is the risk you run. Keep putting your work out there -- you write beautifully from what I've seen here on the blog & success is as much timing as talent, I'm starting to realize. We can hold hands until it's our turn to win. :-)

Anna -- you're going to have to produce this Guerrillas in the Mist manuscript someday! Maybe feed us a couple chapters of it on the blog. I'm dying of curiosity... :-) And I, too, was an ace student of English. Rude, rude awakening to discover I'd written a fatally flawed load of garbage. :-) But like you said, writing it was pure magic & got me hooked but good. :-)

Christine -- Awwwww. Didn't mean to make you cry! But what the heck. I've cried plenty over losing. It's nice to have company! And such good company, too! And you're right -- it's hard to know what's really valuable in life unless you work like h*ll for it. I hope you're loving the success you've earned!

Helen -- thanks for the encouragement, & congrats on your job success! Perseverance wins the day again!!

Trish -- Speaking of perseverance! All those GH finals & wins had to help, though. Nobody's that consistently lucky -- we all knew you were writing quality stuff! And we knew that day would come when you'd be signing a fabulous contract!! Yay, bandita!

Down Under Girl -- Your first book sounds like a winner, too! Mine was called Trading APRIL, & it revolved around a software company trying to release a new product called, you guessed it, APRIL. But the launch was threatened by some insider trading (thus the title), & a sexual harassement suit against one of the programmers. A keenly insightful HR consultant is hired to team up with the ultra hot VP of marketing to figure things out. Yeah, I have NO idea why that one didn't sell. :-) But it took me a year to write. Ten DAYS? I feel faint just thinking about that. :-)

Beth -- I'm going to try really, really hard to shift my attitude more toward yours. It sounds so professional, so...healthy. When I send off my queries, I always give myself a little speech about how I need to get through say, two hundred rejections before I can expect any kind of interest. One more rejection is one step closer to yes. Puts a positive spin on things. then I open an actual rejection letter & lose perspective entirely. :-) What a great happy ending to your story, though, finding a home with superromance! Go, bandita!

DownUnderGirl said...

Yes, Susan, that glue stuff is amazing.
But here's a tip - dont spill it on yourself because it really, really does glue and well. I've stuck my perfectly normal, uncut fingers together with that damn stuff!!
Pleased to see all is well with the chin.

I think I need to add that my 10 day book was BC - before children - and I was unemployed at the time.

Amy