Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Publishing Journey--Part 3

Good news! I've finished the first draft of Daughters of Jared. A copy of my pitch letter to my publisher is HERE. I'll take a week off and then start on the second draft process, then off to alpha readers. I hope to turn it in by December.

Read Part 2 Here

My Publishing Journey

Part 3

As a teen I read everything that Mary Higgins Clark wrote. But her most inspirational book was called Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir. In the book she details the writing schedule she carved out for herself as a widow and working mother of several children. 5:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m. At the time, I didn’t realize how useful this sound advice would eventually become.

Around the time that I finished writing my mystery, which changed several times, and finally landed on the title 72 Hours (because, of course, it all took place in 72 hours), a young woman in Utah was kidnapped. The story of Elizabeth Smart made national news and became the focal point of media attention for many months, when finally, and miraculously, she was found alive. This took a bit of steam out of my kidnapping mystery. But the manuscript was finished so I decided to submit anyway.

1. Rejection
2. Rejection, but a long editorial letter detailing what I’d need to do to get the manuscript into shape

I had moved up in the rejection ladder. Writers understand that being completely ignored is the bottom rung , getting a form rejection is the next rung up, and getting a customized rejection with editorial notes is even higher. I was excited. I was devastated. I read through the two page letter and my heart sank further and further. I now couldn’t say—oh it just wasn’t for them—I now had everything that was wrong with my story and plot written out in black and white.

Without pulling it out and reading over the painful comments again, I do remember the basics. “I was really excited when I started reading this manuscript. Until about page 35 when things began to fall apart. It was obvious you hadn’t done your police procedure research. . .”

So, I was expected to interview a police officer? Sounded a bit out of my comfort zone. As I read the letter several times, I realized that my heart was no longer in the story. I didn’t want my novel to be seen as a copycat to the events surrounding the now infamous Utah kidnapping, and I didn’t know if I had the stamina to write in the mystery genre, and research all that needed to be researched.

I decided that since I’d written two full novels, only to receive rejections, I’d use another approach. I studied the smaller presses and read some of the books they were publishing. I looked for a niche that I might be able to fill for one of them—both to target their readers and to write something that I truly enjoyed.

Historical fiction has always been a great love of mine. Reading historical novels, or watching movies based on historical facts have always kept me enthralled. But one of the publishers I researched published religious books for the LDS market. I’m LDS, but I hadn’t considered writing and LDS book. The LDS novels I had read seemed too much like a Sunday School lesson. But two of my critique partners were writing for the LDS market. Jeff Savage had a suspense novel out and Annette Lyon a contemporary romance. And I really enjoyed them. So I thought there might be hope for me in that market. But what to write? I didn’t want to work more on the mystery. I didn’t want to turn the WWII novel into an LDS novel. What historical aspect did I have a true interest in that also connected with LDS readers?

There were a couple of big name LDS historical novelists, Dean Hughes and Gerald Lund. Neither had written anything on the Book of Mormon—a historical record of people who lived in b.c. Mesoamerica. Perhaps I could try it. The more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. I had lived in Jerusalem as a teenager so I felt I had a bit of a connection to the culture that Lehi and his family grew up in (their story takes place in the first “book” of the Book of Mormon). But I was not a scripturian, in fact, far from it. I’d hardly been to Sunday School myself as an adult since I was always teaching in Primary.

But I had connections. My father, S. Kent Brown, was a scholar—specializing in the New Testament, but also very well versed in the Book of Mormon since he was a professor at BYU. I asked if he might be interested in co-writing a series on Nephi’s journey. After hemming and hawing a bit, he finally said no. He wasn’t interested in writing fiction. But I had my source in place. With my dad’s brilliant mind, I could ask him a question, and he could direct me to the most relevant source without me spending thousands of hours reading every bit of research. I only had to spend hundreds of hours.

I wrote the first five pages and brought them to critique group, feeling like I was finally going somewhere with a story idea.

The first thing they said to me after I explained my project was: Haven’t you read any of the Book of Mormon fiction that’s already been published?

To my dismay, I hadn’t realized there was any out there, which shows how “new” I was to the LDS market. But after reading my first chapter, my group assured me that my manuscript was unique in its own way and could stand on its own.

The journey writing “Out of Jerusalem: Of Goodly Parents” had just begun in 2002, and would take over 2 years to hit the shelves because of the many roadblocks were about to stand in my way.


Stephanie Black said...

Man, I hate cliffhanger endings :) I'm all antsy to find out what comes next in your journey! This is fascinating.

Michael Knudsen said...

Just read your first 3 parts, Heather. You've come a long way. I certainly identified with your experience with teachers in writing classes. Some of them don't do much for our motivation. Glad to see you kept going despite that!

Heather B. Moore said...

Thanks, Stephanie. I got all my cliffhangers from a certain suspense writer . . . Michael, thanks for stopping by.