Thursday, November 24, 2016

What I Used to Not be Grateful For

I can't help but chuckle as I reread the title for this post. While I personally celabrated Thanksgiving about a month and a half ago here in Canada, my neighbours to the south are today with their families around large turkeys being thankful. Perhaps they are just grateful they fit a bird that large in their roster, but gratitude is rarely out of place. So today I would like to share some things that as a writer I am grateful for...that I used to not be. Some of these were actually quite disappointing and painful in the moment, but have become huge blessings with the gift of hindsight!

Let me think. Where should I begin? One thing I am grateful for on a regular basis is:

Piles of rejections! 

Who would have thought, right? Some months they seemed to pour in like tiny pointy darts. Ouch. But now as I look back I see the gems of advice. Meny were form rejections and all I could take away was either that agent/publisher wasn't ready, or my work wasn't. But when you send out enough proposals to get piles back, you are going to get those personalized notes as well. You hear things like: Your characters are too one dimensional, or cardboard cutouts. Your writing isn't there yet. Too melodramatic. Etc, etc.

I have learned to take their criticism and make those points my strengths. They have driven me to make my writing better.

My first almost contract. 

Seven years ago next month, I received my first good news from a publisher. They told me they loved my story and wanted to publish it. They would send me a contract in the new year and probably look at publication late 2010. I was so excited! Finally I had confirmation that my writing was good. And I was going to be published! 

In January 2010 I received another note from the small publisher. No contract right now. No book in 2010. They didn't have the budget. Early 2011 I received notification that this 15 year-old publisher was closing it's doors. So much for that!

Now I'm grateful. My writing has come a long ways since then and my voice has developed. I plan to rewrite the story before I send it out again. 

Harsh criticism from judges.

I went into writing contests quite naively. My work was amazing. Who could not love it?
Obviously, one out of every three judges.
At first it burned pretty good (LOL, who am I kidding, it still stings to get that sort of criticism), but after a while I found myself entering contests for that very purpose. It has become the perfect place to get completely honest feedback.

Months of preening a manuscript for a publisher...and no contract.

This one was fun. A small publisher wrote me and told me they really loved my first three chapters, but noticed my word count was too low for them. I needed 7000 more words. I took a breath, because how do you add that many more words to a book that is already tight and edited? But I really just wanted to get traditionally published at this point. That was my life's goal (passed down over three generations).
So I wrote 7000 more words. And I made them good. Delved deeper into my characters and their story. I loved what I'd written and happily sent to back to the publisher to wait.
A couple months later, I heard back that they did love it, but one of their trail readers wasn't "gripped". No contract.
Best thing ever!
That stand-alone story is now the second book in a series, and I am pitching the first book (that wasn't even conceived at that time).
I LOVE the story I wrote to precede it and how the stories have become woven together. I plan to do yet another rewrite of that original manuscript and am very excited about it's potential.

That horrible agent appointment.

At ACFW conference this year I had some great agent appointments. But I there was one agent I sat down with, who from the very start obviously wasn't interested in my story. It was not the easiest thing to sit there smiling and nodding as she explained the problems with my manuscript's first page. But I did. Then we chatted about kids and I thanked her. And I am thankful to her. Her words reflected some of the criticism from the contact I had just entered it in, and also some of the pause from the other agents. Because she gave me some definite points I can work on in this particular story, I can make the needed changes and my story will be that much better -- and ready for when I send out future proposals.

So what are you grateful for...that perhaps you weren't to begin with?

To keep from freezing in the Great White North, Angela K Couch cuddles under quilts with her laptop. Winning short story contests, being a semi-finalist in ACFW's 2015 Genesis Contest, and a finalist in the 2016 International Digital Awards also helped warm her up. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there, as well. When not writing, she stays fit (and warm) by chasing after three munchkins.  


  1. Angela, wonderful perspective on being grateful for the not-so-good things that happen in our writing journey. It's interesting how so much of Paul's message in the NT involves being grateful in the tough times, it builds perseverance and hope in the future. I think your points demonstrate such perseverance and you're still full of hope after so many years of writing away.

    So congratulations on hanging in there and continuing to improve your writing and story telling through the process.

    1. Thank you. Paul does have some great messages. :)