Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

Colleen's blog


    October 23, 2014


    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Being Published

    Welcome to the eighth session of




    Introducing CJ Redwine!


    “I failed.

    You heard me. I failed. Multiple times. I failed so often on the road to publication that I started cringing when people asked me lovely things like “What have you sold?” or “When is your book coming out?” or “Do you really think you can make a living writing stories?”

    Side note: If you know an aspiring writer, stop asking them things like that. Instead, give them cookies and encourage them to binge watch Supernatural on Netflix.

    So, how did I fail? Let me count the ways:

    1. I wrote my first book, a romantic suspense that had every cliché in the book. (Haha … book. See what I did there? Right. Moving on.) Heroine with amnesia for convenient plot reasons? Check. Insta-love with no basis in any kind of real connection? Check. Villain any idiot could see coming 9387234 miles away? Check. Stray cat who attacked the crotch of the hero’s pants? Okay, that was actually kind of cool. That might be the one salvageable scene from that entire 140k monstrosity. Oh, I didn’t mention that it was 140k instead of the 90k the industry demands? Yeah. That.

    2. I wrote another book, this time an adult urban fantasy, and pitched it at a conference long before it was finished. The agent requested it. I’m sure you see the problem. I had no idea how to quickly finish a book. Also I had no plan. None. I was flying by the seat of my pants as I wrote. In fact, the seat of my pants was wearing super thin at that point. I wrote myself into corners and threw things out. Gave the agent excuses for why the manuscript wasn’t ready. Wrote some more. Finished in what can only be described as a Hail Mary of epic desperation and sent the manuscript WITHOUT RE-READING IT OR REVISING IT AT ALL. Unsurprisingly, the agent passed.

    3. Once I did sign with an agent, the first book we sent out on submission was rejected by everyone in publishing who had a pulse. And possibly a few who didn’t. Meanwhile, what had I been writing? The sequel to that doomed book because I didn’t know any better. Flash forward to a year or so after the book first went on sub, and the truth hit that it wasn’t going to sell.

    4. I wrote another book, another adult urban fantasy, but this time one that was kind of a comic romp with some grit thrown in for fun. I loved it. We sent it out on submission, and this time it was rejected by everyone in publishing with a pulse AND their cats. Dogs. Roommates. That weird guy who always sits in the same corner booth of the local coffee shop. Basically, everyone who had any power to publish it said no.

    5. I can’t tell you how often I sat in front of my computer after I realized the latest book wasn’t going to sell and stared at the screen wondering what to write next. Every idea I had seemed prone to failure. I seemed prone to failure. In the two years I’d been with my agent, she’d signed new clients and sold books for them—sometimes multiple deals!—while I sat there unable to sell a single thing. Some days, it felt like all I had going for me was my abiding belief that I was meant to tell stories and my stubbornness that wouldn’t let me quit even though all I seemed to do was fall flat on my face.

    I didn’t quit. I decided to switch genres once again and try something completely different. I sat down and wrote a YA post-apocalyptic fantasy, turned it in to my agent, braced myself for the inevitable slew of rejections, and started the next idea. My agent called a week later to tell me the book was going to auction with four houses bidding on it. I just sat at my desk and cried.

    You see, the truth is that I never actually failed. Long before I sold the Defiance trilogy at auction, I’d succeeded. I succeeded in finishing my first book, 140k cliché-ridden monstrosity though it may be. I’d learned how to write fast by making the foolish mistake of pitching an unfinished manuscript, even though the end product was a mess. I still write fast, and the end product isn’t a disaster anymore. I’d figured out that I needed more of a plan, and more world building, by writing myself into corners. I’d uncovered my voice while typing in the unpublished trenches. I’d honed my belief in myself and become satisfied with myself as a writer regardless of whether anyone in publishing ever bought one of my books. I’d gained valuable perspective on my projects—I’d learned to let go of them emotionally once they were out of my hands and to let rejection roll off of my back without leaving a mark. Those are essential skills to have as a published author.

    It takes a lot of “failure” to succeed. The trick is to learn whatever lesson there is to learn, pick yourself up, and write the next story.”

    If you’re reading this blog and you have the desire to write, I encourage you to take time to expand your knowledge, enlighten your soul and develop your talents. Teachers always say that if you want to be a writer, you must read! Creative writing is not one I have the fortune of spending much time on, but I love reading the works of others. Whether its reading Shakespeare, Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Dr. Suess children’s books, a novel by a novice author, or the National Geographic magazine, I am partaking in someone’s art. Whether I decide that art to be beautiful, amateur, sloppy, or insightful to me is my opinion but it is also an exciting experience that can teach me something or even change the way I see the world.

    The art of the written word has the ability to illuminate the heart, mind and soul of the composer. When words are carefully chosen, the effect it can have on the reader is limitless. That is why stories and poetry have the power to change a single soul or even entire nations. The written language is a magical tool we can use to communicate our thoughts. It is limited only by our ability to masterfully orchestrate and manipulate the words.

    So, once you’ve accepted and acted on my first challenge, I then encourage you to take some time out of your day to create something from your heart. It can be keeping a journal, writing a poem or story, drawing a picture, molding clay, composing a song, anything really. There are so many ways to express ourselves and everyone of us has a story to tell. CJ Redwine didn’t give up, along with so many others. Imagine the world if J.K. Rowling had given up after being turned down!

    Stay tuned for CJ Redwine and Colleen Houck’s LIVE CHAT!

    Join Colleen Houck and C.J. Redwine for a live chat on October 27th, from 5-6pm (pacific time) on Goodreads! 

    For fun there will be a GIVEAWAY during the live chat! Colleen will be choosing one luck participant on the live chat to win a complete set of the Defiance trilogy!! You won’t want to miss this one!

    ~Till next time,

    Linda Louise Lotti

    This entry was posted in Featuring Authors, The Modern Ink Society.

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    Author Bio

    I’m Linda Louise, one of the bloggers on this website and Colleen’s little sister. I’m just a girl in her mid-thirties who feels thirteen when I play outside with my boys, fifteen when I sing my heart out listening to tunes while driving by myself, and sixty five when I go out past ten at night. I have a thing for junior mints, Mt. Dew, shrimp and kale (though not all at once) and I have a crush on Superman. I still get girlish butterflies when I read Twilight, cry when I read These is My Words, and smile from ear to ear when I read Anne of Green Gables. I have nightmares about aliens on a regular basis and I have a bad habit of midnight snacking. I love everything sports, except golf (although can that honestly be considered a sport??), and I hate anything that slithers, hisses, or stings. I have a problem with giggling at inappropriate moments and I sometimes wish life was a musical. I love science, hate math, love Dr. Seuss, and hate olives. My family is my world and my joys come from their happiness. I’ve learned I don’t know much about anything and I live for a good adventure, naps, cuddles, stories, exceptional food and The Shire.