Thursday, May 18, 2017

Those Annoying Roadblocks

This weekend I am off to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Internet reception usually isn't great in remote areas, so I asked my friend, Karen Witemeyer who is also an author to stop by and share a thought we could talk about.

The topic that came to her mind involved road blocks.

Hah, yeah. Well, with the construction I'm driving through to get those lovely Blue Ridge Mountains, I know about road blocks. Sheesh, I hope I make it to the meetings on time.

Anyway, Karen wanted to share how road blocks can actually be a good thing. Yeah. I know. Doesn't seem possible, right? Take a moment and check out what happened to my author friend, Karen Witemeyer: 

Those Annoying Roadblocks

I was no fool. I expected the road to publication to be arduous. So I prepared. I put my craft muscles through years of intensive training and stretched myself in critique groups and contests.

Then I took my first completed novel to a writer's conference. 

I arrived a day early and worked at the volunteer station stuffing envelopes. A woman who had the same first name worked beside me. That was fun. However, as time ticked on, I realized who she really was. This was Karen Schurrer, an editor from Bethany House, my dream publisher. 

Only the Lord could have orchestrated such a meeting. I resisted telling her about my novel right then. Two days later, I sat at her lunch table, and after everyone talked about their projects, one brave writer asked if we could send her our proposals. She said yes.

After the conference, I sent in my proposal and soon had a surprise request for a full manuscript. Surely a contract was right around the corner, right? Wrong. The acquisitions editor rejected my manuscript. She considered the plot too similar to something they'd already done. It wouldn't work for launching a new author. 

She complimented the writing and said there was one component to the story that she liked—the dress shop. Could I come up with a new idea surrounding a dress shop?

Now you have to understand, in the original book, the dress shop burned to the ground in the prologue. It didn't even make it into chapter one. Yet she wanted me to create an entirely new book from scratch based on this shop idea. Unbelievable. It would be easier to look for another publisher.

But publishing with Bethany House was my dream. 

I started brainstorming, and even met with the editor in person at the next conference. She gave me feedback and encouraged me to send her the new story. Early the next year, Bethany House offered me a three book deal launching A Tailor-Made Bride. Yep, the dress shop book.

Just because I had a three-book deal didn't mean the roadblocks were cleared. Not even when the books sold well. 

Contract time rolled around again. Bethany asked for three new book ideas for the committee. I worked hard and wrote the best synopses I could. I like them. They should like them too. After all, my editor had already said she wanted to sign me for another deal.

Nope. They turned down two of my three ideas. Ouch. 

Roadblocks are never fun to hit, but they do teach important lessons. You see, my first books were light-hearted and fun. However, I have a soft spot for dark, wounded heroes, too, and one of my synopses featured such a tortured soul. My editor wrote that it wasn't what readers would expect when they picked up a Karen Witemeyer book. In other words, it didn't match the brand I had formed. I needed to go back to the drawing board and create ideas that better fit readers' expectations. 

That's what a professional does. She doesn't whine and complain about the publisher who doesn't understand her artistic genius. No, she opens a new document and gets to work.

Mary here. This is so true even with our Christian lives. God has in mind the projects we can do. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. If we teeter off to a project off the path, God will remind us of His will. At that point we can choose: follow God's will, or walk away.

Contract renewal time will come up again soon. I must admit, I'm still nervous about proposing ideas they will like. But now I know more about keeping true to my brand, and more than that, I know that if one or more of my ideas come back to me with a big red No stamped across them, I can persevere, be a professional, and get things done.  That's what this writing journey is about—doing our best for God's glory.

About Karen:

Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.

Two-time RITA® Finalist and winner of the HOLT Medallion and ACFW Carol Award, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes historical romance fiction for Bethany House, believing that the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:  

Thank you Karen for joining us this weekend!

So, what roadblock is possibly helping you?

1 comment:

quietspirit said...

Karen: This is an interesting tale of the road to publication. Thanks for sharing.
Mary: The Blue Ridge mountains are beautiful. Enjoy your time there.