“Don’t throw anything away.”
That was the best advice I took away with me from my very first writer’s convention. The speaker was a seasoned writer who shared a bad experience with his audience. Years before he’d written something – an article, a short story, something he hadn’t been able to sell, and he’d thrown it away, only to discover at a later date that he had a market for it. But…too late!
I was a raw beginner without enough written, let alone publishable, to throw away. But I took his words to heart, and I’ve never stopped being grateful for them.
Segue forward a few years. At that point I had sold a few children’s stories. I’d just written another story I thought was a lot of fun. I began my marketing efforts with one of the best paying magazines – Highlights for Children, a market to which I’d sold four children’s stories. (Another good piece of advice I’d picked up at a convention – always start at the top with the best paying markets and work your way down. You can always go down, but you can’t go up!) Highlights rejected my story as did every other children’s magazine I tried. Feeling thoroughly trounced I relegated the story to a drawer in my desk.
Time went by, but I couldn’t forget that little story in the drawer. I pulled it out, reread it, and decided maybe I should try telling the story from another point of view. I rewrote the story, and began my marketing efforts again. Still no luck. After a series of rejection slips, back in the drawer went the story.
More time went by. Now I had sold a couple of children’s books to Scholastic. One day I received a call from my agent at that time. Scholastic was looking for early chapter books. Did I have a manuscript that might work?
As soon as she told me what constituted an early chapter book, I said yes. (Here’s another good piece of advice I picked up from another writer: Say yes and worry about the details later. As in, “Can you write the Great American Novel?” Oh, absolutely, and pardon me while I go off somewhere and have a quiet panic attack.)
To be honest, I was thinking about that little children’s story that was probably less than 1000 words long. Somehow I needed to make it about 12,000 words, but I knew that I had a solid plot. I had a cute twist at the end, too, and with more characters and maybe a secondary plot to thread through the story….
Well, it got written and sent off to Scholastic. They loved it and bought it, and paid me a lot more than a magazine would pay for a short story.
“Don’t throw anything away.”
The first article I ever had published was paid for in copies. It was entitled “How To Make Breakfast Your Favorite Meal.” Years later, I came across a market –
Bestways Magazine – looking for food related articles. I dusted off the breakfast article, tweaked it here and there, and sent it to Bestways. They bought it and published it. A few years later, I rewrote about 25% of the article and sold it again – to a different market.
Don’t throw…. Well, you get my drift. As for Master of Shadows, the novel that Juno Books just published, I wrote it 15 years ago and couldn’t sell it because it wasn’t a standard romance. It went into a drawer, only to be pulled out about three years ago when I thought I had a possible new market. Unfortunately, although the editor loved it, the company went bankrupt before the book was published.
When I read Juno’s guidelines for their paranormal romances, I really had to argue with myself that sending them Master of Shadows would be a good thing. And when Paula e-mailed me to say that she liked what she’d read and wanted to buy the book, I almost fell off my chair. I remember staring at the monitor and pinching myself.
And maybe that’s why I have a big cupboard in my office with a lot of dusty boxes in it. You can guess what’s in those boxes and in the file cabinets. Because you just never know! And so I never throw anything – at least anything in my office – away!