The right time for your story
Teena is a reader, writer and daydream believer. She writes across genres and her publications include picture books, chapter books, a novel, short stories and poems. Her writing life has also included a long career as a journalist and editor.
Find out more about Teena at her website and her blog for writers and readers, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
You’ve crafted your manuscript to a professional standard. It’s been critiqued, revised, edited, proofed and ready to submit. You send it out feeling confident – but after a round of rejections that initial optimism has become a cloud of despondency. Whatever gave you the idea you could write? Your story’s just not good enough. It didn’t make the grade.
Think again. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of timing. The right story has to land on the right desk at the right time. I’ve lost count of the number of manuscripts I’ve considered a lost cause, only to have them find a publisher at some future date.
For example, both books I had published in 2014 were written 20 years earlier. That’s right. It took me two decades to find publishers for True Blue Amigos (Wild Eyed Press) and Catnapped (Xist Publishing). I could hardly believe it myself but records don’t lie. In my pre-computer days when I set out to become a writer, I started an index card for every manuscript to keep track of submissions. I’ve continued this practice even though I now use an online tracking programme as well.
The Seven Day Dragon, now in production with Serenity Press, was a 'sleeper' for even longer. I wrote the first version of the novel in 1985 and after approaching a few publishers without success, I filed it away. Ten years later I decided to take another look at it. My writing had developed in that time and while I still liked the freshness and energy that publishers had commented on in the original manuscript, I could see where the structure, style and plot needed more work. Unfortunately the new, improved version didn't fare any better with publishers so it was back to the filing cabinet, where it remained for another 15 years.
There it might have stayed permanently except that Josh's story refused to be abandoned. It popped back into my mind unexpectedly and refused to be ignored. It seemed there was so much more to the story than I'd imagined at the start. Over the following months, I reworked it completely with regular feedback from my critique partners.
By the time I'd finished it was twice the length of the original manuscript and a much stronger story. I was convinced I'd have a contract in hand the minute a publisher read it. So much for day dreams. It was another five years before The Seven Day Dragon landed on the right desk at the right time and Serenity Press publisher Karen McDermott told me she loved my story and wanted to publish it.
One of my writer friends told me she attended a workshop where the presenter’s advice was to destroy your early manuscripts once you were published. My shocked response was: “What?” If I'd done that, much of my published work, from poems and stories to picture books and novels, would never have been released.
Of course that early work will often need some attention before it goes out on a new round of submissions. This can range from a light polish or an update to a radical rewrite.
There are many reasons a manuscript might be rejected. Obviously the writing must be of a publishable standard and anyone serious about the craft will work to achieve that through constant practice, study courses, workshops and feedback from critique partners. But don’t shred that unpublished manuscript or cast it into the flames simply because you've had a succession of rejections.
One day, if you’re alert to opportunities, it could well land on the right desk at the right time and the response won’t be another polite, “Thanks, but no thanks.” It will be an enthusiastic, “Yes!”