Tuesday, April 05, 2011

My Friend Doc Mabry!

Today I'm thrilled to host Dr. Richard Mabry here on the blog to talk to us! I met Richard several years ago at an ACFW conference, and we're both represented by Rachelle Gardner. Richard has been a great encourager to me over the years and kept saying, "It'll happen, don't give up!" I didn't, and it did, and I thank him for his persistence in making sure I kept going! We're swapping blogs today, so head on over to Richard's blogas well, to check out my post! So without further ado, here's Richard!

Writing is a tough business, and if you read this blog and other publishing blogs (such as the posts of Cathy’s and my agent, Rachelle Gardner) you'll find that it takes work, talent, and persistence to succeed. But, I guess that if it were easy everyone would be doing it. If you've ever sat down and drafted a novel of 80, 100, 120 thousand words, you know that writing isn't as simple as it may sound to the uninitiated.

My “success” came when I signed a contract with Abingdon Press for the publication of my work of romantic medical suspense. They were just getting their fiction line started, and I was thrilled at this opportunity, but I’m sure there were some of my fellow strugglers who read about the contract and thought, "Why him? Why not me?" Honestly, I thought about that a lot, too. Let me offer an explanation and a word of encouragement.

First, I’d paid my dues and done my homework. I've been to conferences and been mentored by some of the best (and most giving) Christian writers around: Jim Bell, Gayle Roper, Alton Gansky, Randy Ingermanson, Karen Ball, and others. I've read book after book on writing--right now the bookshelf in my office contains more than twenty-five books on the craft, and there's no dust on any of them. I've practiced the art of what Anne Lamott calls keeping your rear end on the chair and your hands on the keyboard, even when I didn't want to.

That brings me to the second point. I persisted. Many writers of my acquaintance work for years to perfect a single novel. They revise, rewrite, agonize over words and scenes, getting them just right. I did that initially, as you'll see in a minute, but I've learned better. I just went over the chronology of my road to writing, and it might interest you that it's taken me a bit less than five years of struggling to become an "overnight success" and sign this contract.

I submitted the initial query for my first novel in the summer of 2004, just about the time I also submitted the proposal for what was to become my non-fiction book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse (which was accepted after seven rejections). That first novel garnered ten rejections. I revised it extensively, reworked it meticulously, and tried again. This time I garnered thirteen rejections. My second novel was rejected seven times, including a couple of revisions. My third novel was so bad that my (then) agent rejected it as not good enough to send out. My fourth novel was rejected ten times, and I figured that was enough. By that time I'd been writing for almost four years and, although I'd had a non-fiction book published and my work had appeared numerous times in periodicals, I felt like I wasn't cut out to be a novelist. So I ended my representation agreement with my agent and stopped writing.

Then editor-turned-agent Rachelle Gardner had a contest on her blog, offering a prize for the best first line for a novel. I dashed off one and was totally surprised when I saw that I'd won with my line. The prize was a critique of the first several pages of a work-in-progress, so I sent Rachelle the first scene of my latest novel--the one that had been rejected ten times. Her comment was, "Send me something that needs editing." One thing led to another, and I submitted a query about representation. She accepted me, and I got back to writing.

But the happy ending didn't come yet. There were three rejections before Rachelle pitched the work to Barbara Scott, then the new chief fiction editor for Abingdon Press. Barbara liked the work, she and I met at the ACFW, and about six weeks later I got the call from Rachelle: "You've sold your first novel." It was wonderful, but the point of all this is that, before that call came, I'd written four novels (five counting totally reworking number one) over a period of over four years, been rejected more than forty times, and completely quit writing once!

So, to my colleagues who haven't received that phone call yet, my hope is that you won't give up. Just remember, "Nothing is impossible with God."And if you don’t believe it, just ask Cathy, who deserves congratulations on the publication of her debut novel.

Dr. Richard Mabry writes “medical suspense with heart.” His third novel in the Prescription For Trouble series, Diagnosis Death, was published April 1. You can follow him at http://rmabry.blogspot.com.


Richard Mabry said...

Cathy, It's a pleasure to swap blogs today. I hope that both our posts will encourage others who are about to give up in their writing quest. Whatever happens will happen in God's time. That's a tough lesson to learn, but it helps more than Sominex to give a good night's sleep to those of us traveling the road to writing.
Thanks for having me here.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

You did persist! It must have been really hard to go on after the agent did not want to send out one of your novels. I really admire the dedication that led you to where you are today! And I'm looking forward to more great medical thrillers from you.

Karen said...

Great post. Thank you for those words of encouragement that I so need. Keep on, keeping on.


Richard Mabry said...

Rosslyn and Karen, thanks for your kind words. I suppose that, when I encourage others to persist, I'm still talking to myself as well.
Now it's time to get back to writing.

Carol said...

How nice to find another familiar face here! Hearing your story again, Richard, reminds me of the value of peer support. The online writing community is an awesome place, and often any success we have results from a combination of our own efforts and the help of others who have journeyed before us.

Best of luck to you and to Catherine on your current releases.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Catherine, Thanks so much for your lovely post on Rachel's website. It shows that persistence really does win out, but also that sometimes we need to step away - let something go - in order to see it properly. My agent is currently shopping my middle grade novel with publishers, and I feel that fear rise up inside - what if no one buys it? So your guidance will be helpful to me along the way. Your book sounds wonderful and I will buy it. The Doc's book sounds good too! I am signing up to follow you - hope you will stop by my site sometime: http://writeryogini.blogspot.com