On The Road

After months of anxious, nail biting waiting, I heard back from The Publisher.  While she didn’t exactly say “no”, she didn’t say “yes” either.  Upon reviewing her words, she had a lot of really nice things to say. She liked my writing.  She said I had an easy, entertaining style, and that I made it look effortless.  

Of course, before I could process her compliments, I zeroed in on her final decision – Not As Is.  Devastated, I locked myself in my bedroom and cried my eyes out.  My art had been misunderstood.  I was never going to change my manuscript because it was perfect just the way it was, publishing world be damned!

Fortunately, my pity party only lasted about 10 minutes. 

I’m not one to sulk. I like to fix things.  In order to get back on track I needed to re-read the e-mail, minus the emotional drama, and consider my options. 

What The Publisher didn’t love, was that I pitched my manuscript as a story about my 20 year struggle with a severe Anxiety Disorder, and the anxiety wasn’t front and center.  She rightfully felt as it stands, Could Have Been Holly Wood, is more of a general memoir.  She welcomed me to email her again if I reorganized my story to match my pitch.

As most writers will tell you, the path to a published book is rarely a paved road.  This is a slippery, muddy, uphill climb and it’s up to me what I do next.  The way I see it today, I have a few of choices:

A.     I can reorganize the manuscript.  I could take out the first several chapters that focus on my early years and start where I had my first panic attack when I was thirteen.  I could then move things around to sprinkle in my “backstory” about how I came to have that first panic attack in the first place.

B.     Keep the manuscript as is, tailor my pitch for a more general memoir, and send it out to other publishers and agents. If they are not interested, there are many options these days for self-publishing.

C.     Come up with a compromise.  I don’t want my manuscript to be about “Anxiety Disorder Girl”.  While the disorder made a major impact on my life, it’s not something I let define me. Given that I lived most of my life thinking my condition was something completely different, I feel like I have a story to tell that is outside of the typical anxiety sufferer. On the other hand, perhaps that is what readers want to know about most, all the other stuff is secondary. 

I haven’t decided on a new direction yet.  I still have to think about everything and talk it over with some trusted writers and friends.  This blog, however, began as a way to share my story on how a book is born.  It may be a messy road, but I promise to keep you posted.

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16 Responses to On The Road

  1. J.C. Martin says:

    It’s great that you’re not disheartened. Sounds like the publisher’s got a lot of great things to say about your manuscript, and what changes you need to have done are minor. All three options you mentioned are perfectly viable, and I’m sure you’ll make the right decision in the end!

  2. Pete says:

    Head high! You’ll make the right decision. It’s not easy!

  3. Shelly S. says:

    I love your tenacity and open willingness to share your experience.

  4. Hey Holly,

    (Was wondering where you were:)

    Sorry to hear the news – but you never know, down the road, you may look back and realize that this was something that made the book better and stronger.

    I know you didn’t ask:) but from those three, I’d choose option A (after taking the weekend off for a few pints…)

    PS… so glad the pity party was only ten minutes long…. I had one that lasted months and it made all my hair fall out… (oh, I was already bald…oh, ok then 🙂

    • hollyyoumans says:

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, I’ve been hibernating a bit. Not sure which choice I will go with yet…maybe I’ll wait a couple of weeks and the answer will be more clear. Hope all is going well with your expanded family and your writing. Wish I could join you at the conference next month!

  5. Brinda Berry says:

    There is an agent who spoke at a conference I attended this year: Gordon Warnock, Senior Agent with Andrea Hurst Literary Management. I loved his personality, take on the industry and work ethic. His bio says that he represents: “Specific genres Gordon represents include: Memoir, Cookbooks, Political and Current Events, Humor, Career, Self-Help, Pets, Contemporary Commercial Fiction and YA (No vampires, please). He does not represent: Religious Fiction, Genre Fiction, New Age, Children’s, Middle Grade, Collections of Essays, Short Fiction or Poetry.”

    If I were writing your book, I would be querying him. If I ever do contemporary YA, I will query him.

  6. Hey, Holly! You DO realize that specific feedback from an acquiring agent is HUGE. It’s not the old “doesn’t fit our needs” rejection. I once got one that had been slapped willy-nilly on the copy machine so often, some of the words fell off the slip of paper.

    I read a bit of advice from one agent suggesting authors should write their book, then chop the first fifty pages, and slide them in as slivers of back-story. IMHO, beginning with the inciting incident–that first anxiety attack–would not make the story about anxiety, It makes the story about digging deep for strength and success and love DESPITE the anxiety. What an awesome character arc!

    But, that’s from a person who HAS suffered those attacks and HAS NO CLUE about the rest of your journey. Good luck. You’ve got the hard part nailed. Voice, plot, character arc…

    • hollyyoumans says:

      Gloria, thank you!!! As I commented to Lissa, I’m truly lucky to have such a supportive community of writers who understand the ups and downs of this exciting and sometimes heart wrenching process. I think you are probably correct about the reorg. I stayed up past midnight last night playing around with the manuscript. Your advice seems dead-on. I cut the first 30 pages and I’m thinking I may need to go after the other 20 tonight. Painful, but perhaps necessary.

  7. I also recommend Gordon Warnock! I met him at a conference too. (Maybe the same conference Brinda? I was at Ozark Creative Writers.) Anyway I got to spend a lot of time talking with him and what he likes to represent. Myself and the friends I was with that day don’t write anything that he represents, so maybe that’s why he talked so well with us. No awkward moment waiting for a pitch! lol

    Anyway, yes, Gordon. Wonderful person and he does love quirky memoirs with a unique voice, which sounds like your book! It would be worth querying him.

    I’m sorry this publisher said no, but on the flipside I am very happy for you that you received all the positive feedback you did! I know that the “no” is what initially hurts, but hopefully the positive feedback brings you up and gives you even more determination and strength to get your story out there. You can do this girl!

    • hollyyoumans says:

      Lissa, thank you so much for all the kind words!!! I’m so lucky to have such a supportive community of writers who understand the ups and downs of this process. You’re right, one way or the other, my manuscript is only going to get better. I will pitch Gordon as soon as I settle on an option and do the work.

  8. No matter what you decide to do…reorg., cut the first 50, or keep as-is, the book is wonderful. I know. I’ve read it. You can’t go wrong 🙂

  9. Hi Holly,

    Hope all is well, and just wanted to let you know I left you an award over at my blog:)

    Stop by to pick it up when you get the chance 🙂

    Cheers and Aloha!

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