Making Up with Mr. (Re-)Write

A few years ago I came as close as I ever have to having a book published. An editor at a major publishing house pulled my middle-grade novel—about one kid’s bad luck—out of the slush pile.

She “enjoyed reading it very much,” and although she continued with “you have a “knack for creating vivid characters and humorous situations…with good potential here for a book,” the end was disappointing. She continued the letter with some not-so-specific pointers about improving the manuscript.

But the very end of the letter was the best part, when she requested that I re-submit the manuscript once I had re-written it. I was simultaneously ecstatic and heartily disappointed. Is it possible to say something was well rejected?

In the weeks following the arrival of the letter, I thought not. But now I can honestly say yes.

This book was not the first I’d written, but it represented my heart and soul. More importantly, it most clearly represented my writing style and voice as a fiction writer for kids. Further, I really believed in the story, just as it was.

Still….somewhere deep down inside, I knew the editor was right—and that she was able to see the book in a way that I just couldn’t. So of course I tried to re-write. I sat down everyday for six weeks, tweaking and tugging every which way. But no matter what, I just couldn’t feel very good about anything I re-wrote. In the end, I sent something that even I was disappointed with.

A few weeks later I heard back. “I’m sorry to say this is not what I expected.” Of course I knew the letter would say these words before I even opened it.

Since I had already sent the manuscript to a pretty long list of publishers (and it was before self publishing had taken off), I opened my desk drawer and slipped the manuscript away… which is where it stayed…

Until a few weeks ago. When a series of events—involving a tails-up unlucky coin, 33 mice trapped in our old house, and a beautiful sunny day—made me remember that book. And suddenly, with the passage of time, and a new perspective, I knew what I needed to change to make the book work. I pulled out the editor’s letter, which now seemed a lot more specific, and opened the drawer.

Because for now, I’m giving love one more chance by dating Mr. (Re)Write and hoping for the best.


Julia xo

Encourage me…. have you re-written a book you wrote long ago and had success publishing it? Any suggestions? Or is it best to let bygones be bygones and move on to new projects? What do you think?


  1. Wow. This was both heart-wrenching and hopeful. I’m pleased for you that the passage of time helped the editor’s suggestions seem more specific. Maybe you were just too close to your story the first go-round.

    I would love to know what happens. Not so much with what any editors say, but how you felt after you did the rewrite. Did you get back the book you love, with some bonuses?

    ~ Milli

    P.S. GREAT title for this post. If I didn’t love your blog (and you) so much I would be consumed with envy about all your great titles, ideas, photos/perfect clipart and highly readable posts. :~)

  2. Milli! Are you re-reading some of the old wordsxo prehistory???? THANK YOU for the lovely and wonderful comments! (I actually had tears in my very own eyes as I re-read this post, LOL I need more sleep!) Plus, are you kidding me, that is the SWEETEST postscript ever in the world. Now I think I love you too! P.S. I actually worked on this ms today. I hope I can pull off the things I want to add. Everything now only sounds trite! Thanks again!

  3. Good luck with your rewrites!! I am so leading the cheer squad for you to be successful (and still feel great about what you wrote). That’s if you don’t mind a “vintage” cheerleader. LOL! I definitely would not get hired to shake pom-poms with the young lovelies.