It's been almost a year since I signed my first publishing contract on my first book. I can still remember the pure adrenaline that shot through my body when I pulled in the email from my editor saying that they would like to publish my book.
All my life, for as far back as I can remember, I've loved to write. I've also loved to read. I remember when I was in the first grade, I had checked out The Boxcar Children from the library and read it through. I loved it so much, and there was a limit on how many times I could renew it. So, instead of having to return it and check it out over and over and over again, I sat down with my notebook and a pen and copied the book word-for-word from the page so I could return the original to the library and read my own copy. I think I made it through chapter 3 before a massive hand cramp and suppertime stopped my progress.
I doodled my own little manuscripts over the years to come, enjoying the free reign of letting my imagination take me. Some were shorter pieces, some longer, all ludicrously juvenile (at least from an adult's perspective). But when I wrote those pieces, I looked on them as master works, evidences of art that took a lot of sweat and grit and determination.
I wrote my first full-length novel, Broken Crowns, in 2006 during my lunch breaks at the law office where I was a receptionist. Like my more juvenile pieces, when I was finished, I felt a surge of satisfaction. An entire book, all 89,000 words of it, sat there on my Microsoft Word, the reflection of months of unleashed imagination. Of course, the next step was publication, right?
With the zeal of a never-before-published author, I submitted my book to all the biggest publishing houses I could think of, then sat back to wait for what I was sure would be an enthusiastic response. I was hoping for Bethany House, but I was sure Zondervan or Tyndale would probably pick it up. I was crushed when the rejection form letters started rolling in. Not even a hand-written acknowledgement of my hard work. Just a note that looked like it had been copied a million times and stuffed in envelopes and sent out.
2006 passed and 2007 rolled around. I was busy; my husband and I were missionaries in Ireland that year. I continued to send out proposals with no more fruition than my first attempts. I started looking at smaller publishing companies, but still, no bites. At last, I put Broken Crowns on a flash drive, stuffed it away in our files and discarded my dream.
2008, 2009, 2010, and 11, and 12 passed. I had three children; where in the world would I have found time to write anyway? Then one day I noticed an old friend of mine from years ago had sent a notice to an online writer's group of which I was a member, advertising that she was a publisher now and was looking for manuscripts. The rejection from years ago rolled over me, and I almost deleted the comment right then.
What could it hurt, though, really? So I dug out my flash drive, plugged it in, and sent the first three chapters as requested without much hope at all. When her response came back that she was interested in the entire manuscript, I was elated.
The rest follows naturally. She published me, which lit a jet-engine under my long-buried writing aspirations. I started immediately on a second book in the series, finished it in three months, and published Pretty Little Maids six months after Broken Crowns had come out.
Of course, my writing continues now as I work on the first book of another series, as well as a third book in the first series.
Looking back, I had thought that each of my works, as I finished them, was the pinnacle of success. I had done a hard job, I had finished the work, and the stories were just so incredibly good. *snort* As I look back now, I have to laugh at them, but I realize in the middle of all that work, I was just growing. Learning. Figuring out my craft. Broken Crowns was a break-through, sure, but it was still a learning experience. Pretty Little Maids improves on it, but is still far from perfection.
I wonder . . . do we ever reach perfection? I don't think so. I think no matter how well I do, or how well something is written, there will always be something I could have done better. In some ways, that could be discouraging, but in other ways, it pushes me to keep striving for the best.