On Getting Getting Published

So here it is. You write your first draft. It’s pretty awful, but it’s a first draft. The ghost of your novel. You go back and revise it, and your second draft has more meat, but it still has lots of holes here and unnecessary filler there. You rewrite. Maybe you join a critique group and rewrite some more. You polish. Maybe you send out some queries and get say ten or forty or sixty rejections.

You go back and rewrite and polish. By now you know your characters so well, you have conversations with them. You obsess over details. You read up on agents and try to decide who might be interested in what you’re writing. Did I mention you keep polishing?

Because you’re a writer, you’re naturally shy, but you force yourself out of your writing hole and start going to workshops, then (gulp) writers conferences where you learn about pitching. You keep polishing. One day you pitch at the right conference and hit the jackpot. You get an agent. You almost pass out. You celebrate for a minute and then obsess over whether she’ll be able to sell your book.

When she sells your book, you can’t believe it. You celebrate for more than a minute. You go out to dinner. You don’t mind doing more revisions. You’re going to be published. It only took seven years to get to this point, and now you have a two-book deal. Wow! You have something to show for all your years of hard work; though, now you obsess about whether people will like your book.

Wait. A two-book deal means one year to write, revise, re-write, revise, polish, revise, and re-write a second book. Oh well, when you look at it, sleep isn’t that important.

Keeping at it is.


P.S. My debut novel, The Eighth Circle, a noir thriller, will be published by Crooked Lane Books in 2016.

You Too Can Be A Published Author (Or Maybe Not)

The 66th Philadelphia Writers Conference, the oldest writers’ conference in the country concluded on Sunday. This was my second year attending, and overall had a very satisfying experience. I gained some insight from the workshops, met some new people, and learned (to paraphrase Dickens) that this is both the best and worst of times to be a writer.

Sound confusing? Not really. It’s the best of times because writers have options, meaning there are many pathways to getting our words into print: self publishing, indie publishing, e-publishing. The problem with this method is, the writer will be on the hook for a large chunk (or all) of the costs and the publicity. And please get your work professionally edited because most self-published books need it.

So the writer still has the option of traditional publishing, but of course, one needs to find an agent. The writer doesn’t have any hope of finding an agent unless his/her work is totally polished, professionally edited, and perfect; however, if the writer does all this, there is a small chance the writer will get picked up.

By the way 95% of published books don’t make back their advances.

Am I discouraged? Hell, no. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. If I wanted predictable, I’d have picked another profession (though I’m not sure any profession is predictable today).

Writers conferences are good to attend if only to remind us that we do not labor alone in our bat caves. It’s important to see that others struggle with the same issues. We may not all reach The New York Times best seller list, but we are all part of a larger community.

Believing in the Impossible

When I was in college I believed I was going to write the great American novel. I was an English major at a top liberal arts school, and I had taken creative writing classes. I had great dreams and notebooks filled with short stories. I sent them out religiously and watched the rejection slips mount up.

Undeterred, I got a job at a non-profit where I was able to write grants and public relations materials and eventually moved onto politics where I wrote speeches and direct mail. It was an exciting time. I met my husband, got married and had three kids while continuing to write scripts for videos and brochures. Still, as I watched my toddlers grow into school children then teenagers, I felt that urge to return to writing.

I went back to my old stories and read them with horror. After concluding I was not going to become the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, I thought perhaps another genre would be more suitable. This time I started writing about what I knew and what I had learned over the course of twenty some years: politics and intrigue, the city where I lived. I wrote a first draft, then a second, third, and forth. I went to writers’ workshops and joined a writer’s group. I listened and learned a lot from other writers who were struggling through their own first and second and tenth drafts.

It’s taken a few years, but I finally have a draft I’m proud of. It’s not the great American novel I dreamed of in college. It’s a very dark thriller called Inferno, and it’s set in Philadelphia. I’ve started sending it out and have gotten rejections, but my friends and family keep encouraging me. My writing buddies give me advice. They say it will happen. So every morning I get up and write a few more queries. I look for writers’ conferences. I am slowly starting to figure out the social media with the help of my terrific kids. I believe I’ll get an agent, but if I don’t, I’m not giving up. There’s always Amazon.