Are you one of those people who everything comes easy for? Are you so naturally talented that the words fly off your fingertips onto the page and editors and agents are begging for your work? No? I didn’t think so. And by the way, if you ever meet one of those people, run. Run fast. Because they obviously aren’t really human.
I admit. I was a person that a lot of things came easily for. I didn’t have to study to make good grades. I was popular. (Disclaimer…there were only 13 people in my class. Everyone was popular.) I was Salutatorian of my graduating class, President of the FHA, Secretary of the National Honor Society, cheerleading captain, and homecoming queen. (Again…only 13 people in my class.)
So several years ago, when I found a box full of all the stories I’d written in my high school years, it rekindled my dream of becoming a published author. I got so excited. My kids were grown and gone. What better time to pursue my dream?
Eagerly, I sat down at my computer and began writing. This would be easy. After all, I’d just finished my master’s degree and wrote a 1200 word essay every week. My professors commented on my strong writing skills. I would be at the top of the New York Times best-seller list in no time.
I scoured the internet for information on how to become a published author and stumbled onto the Seekerville website. Contests? There are contests for writers? Sign me up. I’ll win them all. I was almost giddy with excitement.
Then I got my first score sheet back. It was AWFUL. I realized this was going to be a little harder than I thought. I went back to the Seekerville website and this time, when I read their tips for writing, I had a whole different attitude. I was lucky enough to win a first chapter critique from Tina and waited. Then cried when I got it. Crying seemed appropriate because my heroine cried five times in the first chapter and Tina was having none of that. Too much head hopping. What was that? Shallow POV. Too much telling. An abundance of –ly adverbs. And a whole slew of other things wrong with my writing.
Well. Apparently, this wasn’t as easy as I thought.
I could take that box of stories outside and burn it, or I could pull up my big girl panties and start studying. Really studying. I read so many craft books and took so many workshops that some days I thought my head would explode. I got up early to write so I wouldn’t be disturbed and sat up late after the husband went to bed.
I kept entering contests. I finaled in some. I even won one. But still, no one was clamoring at the door to publish my book. But I wasn’t ready to quit yet.
Perseverance - steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Preservice is developed by failure. Last week, I was listening to my favorite Bible study program and the topic was failure. Failure, the pastor said, is factored in by God to make us what he wants us to be. He went on to list three things to do in order to overcome failure.
Acknowledge your failure. That’s easy to do. I have a pile of rejection letters that won’t let me forget.
Accept God’s forgiveness. Failure itself is not a sin. But getting so wrapped up in my own pity party and forgetting to lean on Him is. Forgetting to seek His guidance in my writing and all aspects of my life is. I needed to stop trying to do this on my own.
Apply the lessons of failure towards success. I learned something from every rejection, every judge’s comment, and every critique. I could’ve tossed those comments out the window and said “What do they know? This is my story and I’ll tell it my way.” But I didn’t. I used those comments to make me a better writer. After my third rejection from Love Inspired, I was really frustrated, so my agent suggested I try something different. Then I remembered something I’d chosen to ignore. In my first year of writing, I’d done a pitch session with an associate editor at Love Inspired. She liked my story, but it had a lot of elements that didn’t work for LI. Those same elements worked great for longer stories like Heartwarming, she said.
In my determination, I’d failed to apply all the lessons I’d learned. So I went back and looked at the story that had been rejected three times. I started to play with it and it started to flow. Maybe the longer story really was better for me. I started trying to learn everything about Heartwarming that I could. Although their stories don’t include a faith element, they are clean, wholesome romances that I was comfortable writing.
At RWA, I attended the Heartwarming Open House. I discovered they weren’t looking to acquire any more stories with a major element that mine had. I was heartbroken. I called my agent. “They don’t want any more stories where the hero or heroine returns home to care for an ailing parent. That’s my entire story! What do I do?” He calmed me down and told me to pitch the story anyway but tell them I’d look for ways to change it. So I did. Dana Grimaldi was kind enough to listen to me pitch the story. She liked elements and despite the overused trope, asked for a full.
I got home and started brainstorming with my critique partners to find a way to revise the story and replace the ailing parent. My agent sent in a proposal with the new ideas. He called a few weeks later and said she loved the changes and wanted the full. But my story wasn’t quite finished! I put my nose to the grindstone, locked myself in my room and started working.
The next time my agent called, it was to tell me Dana liked the new version, but wanted some revisions. Was I willing to do it? As the Seekers would say, THIS IS CALLED OPPORTUNITY! I locked myself back in my room and six weeks later submitted the revisions. And the following week found out that Dana was leaving Heartwarming and moving to the American Romance line. I panicked. This was it. She would pass the story to a new editor and they would hate it.
On June 3rd, my agent called. I had sent him some ideas for new projects and figured he was calling to discuss them. I was babysitting my granddaughter, so I was juggling her when I answered the phone. When he told me Victoria Curran wanted to offer me a contract for my story, I almost dropped the baby. Once I could breathe again, I sat my granddaughter on the floor, she was a little dizzy by this time from all my jumping up and down, and cried.
Yeah. I cry a lot.
Perseverance -steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
At least that’s the dictionary’s definition. But it goes deeper than that. Perseverance is staring at that rejection letter with tears in your eyes and wondering why on earth you ever thought you could be a writer. It’s locking yourself in your writing cave when the rest of your family is going to see that new movie with your favorite actor. Perseverance means learning to say no. “No, I can’t go to lunch with you. I need to work on my story.” “No, I can’t volunteer next week, I have a deadline.” (I’m still working that one.)
So tell me, what does perseverance mean to you?
I’d love to be able to give away copies of my new book…but it won’t be out until March 2017. But I will give a $20 Amazon gift card to a lucky commenter! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
LeAnne Bristow often hid books inside her desk and read during class. A teacher actually commented on her report card that "LeAnne would do much better in class if she would stop reading." When she outgrew Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beverly Cleary, she graduated to Walter Farley and Judy Blume. Then her favorite aunt gave her an old box of Harlequin romance novels and she was hooked. After reading the entire Americana series by Janet Dailey, LeAnne dreamed of becoming a writer. Life happened and LeAnne followed her country boy from a small town in central Texas to a smaller town in southern Arizona. She spent the next 25 years corralling three of her own children and 20+ kindergartners. Now an empty nester and new grandma, she's pursuing her dream of bringing you emotional stories that make you hold your breath waiting for that first kiss. LeAnne's debut release from Harlequin Heartwarming will release in March of 2017.