Stories that Matter

The Birth of A Book

As you may know, my first novel was published this past March. Yesterday’s Tomorrow was truly the book of my heart. There were times when I thought I would never see it published. Times when I thought I’d never get an agent, let alone a book contract. Times when I just wanted to give up. Stay on the couch, watch soap operas and eat Doritos. All day.

On Monday, December 12th, 2011, at around 3:30 in the afternoon, I was reminded once again why it is so, so important to never ever ever give up on your dreams.

Yesterday’s Tomorrow was awarded The INSPY for the best in romance in 2011. (“Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.”)

To say I’m floored, humbled, amazed and shocked doesn’t really even begin to describe my feelings. For an author who was once told by an agent (not mine!) that this book ‘would never sell’, I’d say we’ve come a long way, baby.

So how is an award-winning novel born? I have no idea. But I’ll let you see how mine was.

Summer 2006 – Got an idea to re-work an old story idea about a female journalist covering the Vietnam War.

Fall 2006 – I asked an online blogging buddy who happened to work in publishing for some feedback on my ideas. Encouraged, I began researching everything about Vietnam and journalists and all things from that era. Yesterday’s Tomorrow was born.

Fall 2007 – (Yes, you read that correctly. One year later). My blogging friend has now become a literary agent and expresses interest in the complete manuscript. She reads the manuscript and decides it’s ‘not quite ready’. She declines representation. I am crushed. Ready to give up and throw the story, along with my entire computer, into the garbage.

Thanksgiving 2007 – My agent friend has been thinking things over and decides that because I have potential, someone she thinks she can work with long term, she suggests some ways to move forward with the manuscript that might lead to eventual representation. I am overjoyed and there is much to be thankful for. And much Snoopy Dancing.

December 2007Revisions Complete rewrite on Yesterday’s Tomorrow begins. I decide to go the route of seeking help from a seasoned author/editor and hire award-winning author Susan May Warren of My Book Therapy.

December – March 2008 – There is great gnashing of teeth, wailing, loss of sleep and inspiration. I hate everyone. I finally complete the manuscript. Again. I love everyone. Especially my agent. I am now officially represented by Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary Group.

Spring 2008Yesterday’s Tomorrow starts making the rounds.

Summer 2008Yesterday’s Tomorrow starts receiving rejections. Many, many rejections. Things are said like,  “It’s really the setting— Vietnam is just not one that romance readers have found appealing…”

I begin drinking. I begin working on another manuscript.

Fall 2008 – Attend the ACFW conference to pitch new story, but still holding out hope for Yesterday’s Tomorrow. – Some promising appointments but no real interest in either story. Publishers begin tightening their belts. Oh, and did I mention while all this is going on, we are building a house, and it’s turned into a nightmare. I begin dreaming about murdering people and wonder if I should switch genres.

March 2009 – The extremely difficult and gut-wrenching decision is made to put Yesterday’s Tomorrow on the shelf. Maybe not forever, but for now. I begin revising my other manuscript and focus on that. My husband decides to take out stock in the local wine store.

Summer 2009 – Still not contracted. While there is hope for the new manuscript, I can’t stop thinking about Yesterday’s Tomorrow. I take it out and look at it again. I wonder, with smaller new publishers cropping up, whether it might still have a chance. Find a couple of small publishers and query them about Yesterday’s Tomorrow.

Winter 2009 – Still working on other manuscript to improve it once again before it starts the submission process.

January 2010 – Send off new book to publishers.

Spring 2010 – I’m convinced there may be hope for Yesterday’s Tomorrow, but as I start reading the manuscript again, I realize just how much I’ve learned in the past several years, and just how crappy my writing was three years ago. I decide to seek some more professional advice on the story and this time I enlist the help of Meredith Efken of The Fiction Fix-It Shop.

Late Spring 2010 – Receive an email from one of the small publishers we queried months ago. It seems a glitch in communication has taken place. (dun, dun, dun…) they’ve actually been trying to reach us since November ’09 about Yesterday’s Tomorrow. They want the FULL. No, they didn’t mis-read Vietnam and think the story takes place in Virginia. They know it’s Vietnam. in the ’60’s. During the war.

But I’ve already started working on a re-write!! ANOTHER FREAKIN’ REWRITE!!! We very gratefully, humbly and with much drooling and groveling, (well, okay, that was mostly me. All me), thank them for their interest and promise to have the full new and improved manuscript headed their way just as soon as humanely possible.

I begin drinking. Heavily.  I pray and read the Bible. A lot. And ask others to pray too. And I wonder what God is really up to here or if He’s just messin’ with me.

Summer 2010 – More revisions  A complete, exhaustive re-write of the entire manuscript from start to finish takes place. I am entirely and utterly spent, but elated. But still an unpublished author.

September 2010 – I say goodbye to Yesterday’s Tomorrow and send it off to a magical place called OakTara. I know it’s a now or never situation. I am bereft. Still getting positive comments about my writing and the other manuscript from editors, but no contracts.

October 2010 – Weeks feel like years. I am about to pull out my toenails because I have already pulled out all my hair and chewed off my fingernails. The only person still talking to me is the dog.

October 26th, 2010 – Response from OakTara arrives in my inbox. It’s early afternoon, and no, I haven’t been drinking. The header reads, “We Love Yesterday’s Tomorrow!”

I am a pile of quivering mush. I have a contract. For the book of my heart. The story that grabbed hold four years ago and refused to let go. The story I believe—I know—God gave to me.

March 15th, 2011Yesterday’s Tomorrow is released to the world and my dream has come true!!

And the moral of the story today, children?

“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Winston Churchill.

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  1. bonnie leon on December 14, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Cathy, thank you for sharing your story. And congratulations!

    After writing and publishing nineteen novels I am now working on the “story of my heart” one I believe God asked me to write. You have encouraged me to continue. Thank you.

    Grace and peace to you.

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 9:51 am

      Bonnie, thank you and I am glad my story has encouraged you! Miracles DO happen, don’t give up!!

  2. Pamela Meyers on December 14, 2011 at 9:17 am

    CONGRATS ON THIS WONDERFUL NEWS CATHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So awesome!!

    Cathy, I remember all those years of anguish with YT and as I read your log of the experiences with the manuscript as they happened I can so much compare them with my own for my book Thyme for Love which was published by OakTara last month. Mine started out as a cozy mystery under a different title, targeted to a cozy line at a Christian publisher. Just as they were about to take it the line crashed and burned. Then no publisher would look at it. Cozies don’t do well in the Christian market. Secular publishers wanted me to removed the faith element but it was woven in too tightly. Not that I would have removed it anyway…Then I repackaged it, gave it a new title and called it a romance with a mystery twist. Still no takers until Ramona Tucker at OakTara read it, loved it and wanted it to publish. Ramona is a champion and recognizes stories that will sell and isn’t afraid to take them on.

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 9:53 am

      Thanks, Pam! Yep, I know exactly how you feel! Ramona is awesome and I think OakTara is filling a gap in CBA quite nicely! I’m so glad we’re on this journey together. 🙂

  3. splashesofjoy on December 14, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Wow Thanks Cathy for this post. As readers sometimes we think author’s have an easy life of leisure because you get to stay at home at work! And I can just hear you say “Yeah Right!” Though I really never thought that, and now I realize ever more the frustrations of a writer since I started reviewing books and meeting authors. But to hear stories like yours, and others I have heard about how many years and denies from publishers writers go through before finally a book is published, makes the books even more special to me. Just as Yesterday’s Tomorrow is to me. I am thankful for this small publishing company (Which is in Va where I live….yeah!!) for believing in you and your awesome book. I’m looking forward to your next book too! Keep believing in yourself, trusting God and writing great books for us to read and review!
    Aren’t you so glad that the Lord knew your future and lead you to that little publishing company! It’s awesome to see Him at work in our lives like this.

  4. bethkvogt on December 14, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I loved reading the story of your dream come true — even the nightmare aspects of it.
    So happy for you.

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks, Beth! I’d almost forgotten about the whole house-building scenario until I started pulling dates out and going back through emails!! To say I was a little stressed is probably a major understatement!! But again, God’s timing is perfect!!

  5. Ruth A. Douthitt on December 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story! I, too, am published with OakTara and am so grateful they made my dreams come true too!! I am so happy for your success. I remember seeing your book on the OakTara web site when it was released and liked the title. Congratulations on winning the INSPY award!!

    I am working on my next book series to send to an agency. I pray it garners representation. God is good and He is faithful to those who dream BIG dreams.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your success! Go OakTara!


    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm

      Hi Ruth! Thanks so much. It’s a long road for sure, but so worth it. Yes, I hope you land that perfect agent for you as well, it does make things easier! Thanks for stopping by and hope you come back!

  6. Tracy on December 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Yaaay – congratulations!!! And although I know much of it was painful, this post cracks me up. I love your humor, even in the midst of it all.

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm

      Humor? What humor? I was totally serious…
      hahaha. Yeah, I do have that quirk. Not everyone gets it…

  7. Keli Gwyn on December 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Congratulations on your INSPY award! I love seeing how your perseverance and hard work paid off.

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      Thank YOU my awesome cheerleader!!!

  8. Melissa K. Norris on December 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Yea! Sometimes things are worth the wait, huh? 🙂

  9. Sherri Wilson Johnson on December 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I am soooo proud of you and so happy for you. Congratulations!

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      Thanks, Sherri! I am sure there are all sorts of wonderful things in store for you as well!!

  10. Author Gina Gates on December 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I love your heart-warming story. Very encouraging to every author to keep doing what we do!

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Gina! Yes, you have to keep trying!!

  11. Michelle Sutton on December 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Loved this book! Thanks for showing the development of the story for people who are curious about the process.

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      Michelle, you know I love your enthusiasm for Yesterday’s Tomorrow!! Thanks so much for all the buzz and support!

  12. Pia Thompson on December 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Wow. Five years is a long time to birth a baby! You are amazing. Congratulations on the INSPY award Cathy! It must be especially rewarding since it is the book of your heart. It encourages the rest of us still in the early stages of “pregnancy”.

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks, Pia!! All in good time, it will happen, keep working at it!!

  13. Richard Mabry on December 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Cathy, Let me remind you that I told you so–you just didn’t believe me, did you? Congratulations.

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm

      I know, I know. But I thought you were just being nice…. 🙂

  14. Koala Bear Writer on December 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Wow, that’s an amazing story! Thanks for sharing. That’s very encouraging for those of us still sitting on first novels, wondering whether to keep working on them or just scrap them and start over. I would read a story set in Vietnam just because it’s something that nobody else is doing. I love stories with a unique hook or idea or setting. 🙂

    • Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm

      My heart is to encourage writers like you because I was exactly in that place not so long ago. I KNOW how discouraging it is, believe me!! Just don’t ever lose hope or faith in your writing. Believe in what you are doing and don’t give up! It will happen at just the right time and probably when you least expect it!!

  15. Susan Mason on December 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm


    Congratulations on your award! How wonderful!

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. After a rejection the other day, I need some encouraging words. Do I give up on my story or do I forge on until someone likes it? I think I have my answer!


  16. Cathy West on December 14, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    HUGS Susan!! Yes, you keep going – get the best advice you can, seek out authors who can advise you – sometimes it’s hard to see things that need improvement when we’ve already looked at the thing a million times – most of all, follow your heart. It’s really hard, but every rejection is a stepping stone toward publication! I used to hate hearing that, but it really is true. 🙂

  17. Janet Sketchley on December 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Cathy, thanks for giving us a peek at the process. It’s definitely a longer one than we expect when we first get an idea and start writing. And congratulations! Yesterday’s Tomorrow is really well-done, and all those rewrites have paid off.

  18. Dineen Miller on December 15, 2011 at 3:02 am

    Great story, Cathy! What a journey. LOL!

    • Cathy West on December 16, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Yes, let’s hope my next books don’t take this long!! 🙂

  19. Bethany on December 15, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Wow, what a journey it has been for you! Thanks for posting this- as a reader, it’s interesting to hear how books get published 🙂

    • Cathy West on December 16, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Thanks for reading, Bethany!

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