Home > Writing > My first novel: a retrospective – Part 5

My first novel: a retrospective – Part 5

So I’d sent off my manuscript and felt like a real author. Yeah, I know. Dumb. But still, the mere fact that someone wanted to read more of something I’d written just made me feel so … well … good! Riding the wave of euphoria, I set off and continued writing my second book. Surprisingly, despite the rather ambiguous start, the new book went pretty smoothly and panned out in directions I never expected, which is typical of how stories work for me.

NOTE: Update to my previous post. My memory isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be, so forgive me for forgetting another piece of good news that had occurred back when I was shopping around my first novel. While a publisher had requested my full manuscript, what I neglected to include in part 4 was that an agent also requested my book. What great news for me, right? Not one, but two opportunities to have my book read.

Ok, back to the story. But first, a digression …

During the writing of my second book, I took a few breaks from pounding on the keyboard to search for places where I could submit some of the stories from my small but growing collection of shorts. Back then, it was pretty difficult to find appropriate magazines. There was no internet to speak of at that time (it was still mostly limited to computer companies and universities), so I had to rely almost entirely on a very thick book entitled The Writer’s Market. It listed the magazines and periodicals that accepted unsolicited submissions, and for each of these, what kind of stories they wanted. For someone like me, I was looking for those interested in the horror/thriller genre. After I’d settled on several good prospects, I submitted requests for copies of the magazines so I could scope them out and see if they were worthy of my work :S) (yes, that was sarcasm … see the emoticon 🙂

After subscribing to, and reading through, a number of horror magazines, it became clear to me that I should submit a few of my stories. I was convinced, of course, that my work was at least as good as anything I’d just read. So, just as before, I printed a copy of what I wanted to submit, typed a few intro letters, and sent them off to several magazines. To make a long story short (pun intended :-), while I got very good responses from the various editors who’d looked over my stories, in the end all of them declined publishing them in their respective magazines. After a go around of several of my favorite shorts, I decided to call it quits for a while on the short story publishing effort and went back to banging on the keys for my second novel.

So I wrote, and I wrote … and waited (anxiously) to find out something about my first book, all the while spurred on by the fact that someone, somewhere liked the first twenty or so pages I’d written. After some time had passed, I began receiving letters from some of the publishers I’d contacted. While I’d been hoping for the best, all along I was mentally preparing myself for the worst. And the worst came true for almost all of my queries. However, there was one piece of mail I received that was different: it was from the publisher who’d asked to see my entire manuscript.


I was nervous, but excited, as I stared at the letter. While my mind wandered off to the possibilities of what was inside the envelope, I enjoyed every second spent daydreaming about what wonderful news it must contain. So I waited quite a while, relishing the moment, before I got the nerve to open up the letter. I didn’t get what I’d hoped for, and I didn’t get what I feared.

Inside the self-addressed envelope I’d provided, a representative of the publisher had hastily scrawled a note on the bottom of my most recent inquiry. It said, in part, “Sorry – we’ve been forced out of business …” It then went on to say that my manuscript would be returned if postage had been supplied. Bleah, bleah, bleah.

What? I spent months fretting over the fate of my book. And for what? Went out of business? Are you kidding me? Man, this was a disappointment of the sort I’d not prepared for. Rejection I was ready for (sort of). Acceptance I was even more ready for. But neither had come my way. Instead, the end of my book’s first submission journey had ended in nothing more than a whimper. To be honest, I think I would have preferred a flat rejection over “going out of business”. Well, maybe not. But still …

Anyway, after a brief bout of depression, I continued my writing and waited — would you believe patiently? I thought not — to hear back from the agent.


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