This will be a long post, because let’s face it, the path to publication ain’t short. It’s long and twisty, and it enters the Forest of Dread, where demons take bites out of your backside and treetop gremlins poop acid on your head.
I remember the first time I typed THE END like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a wingback recliner savoring the satisfaction of a job well done. I’d done it. I’d finished my novel. The world would soon know and love me.
That was eleven years ago.
To my surprise, several agents responded to my immediate and extensive queries by requesting the full manuscript. All of them passed. Quickly. Like, lightning speed. Clearly, they didn’t know what to do with brilliance. I’d raised my sentences to a level of lyrical greatness with generous helpings of adjectives and adverbs. How could they possibly pass?
I found the answer scribbled by an “agent” on my opening pages. She offered to refer me to a writing coach. Of course that’s how she made payroll, but if I’d had the money, I probably would have bought what she was selling. After all, she opined in her rejection letter that I had what it takes to become a serious writer. Those words were a rope tossed to a dejected writer drowning in a sea of rejection. I perused her cryptic notes in the margins of my manuscript. “Telling vs. showing. Head hopping.” What the hell? I thought you just wrote a book and people bought it!
I wanted to know what Phoney McFakerson, Literary Agent was talking about. I began anew, reading every secondhand how-to book I could get my hands on. It became clear that I’d need more than correct punctuation to win a contract. I had a craft to learn, one that required both practice and patience. I signed up for an online writing course, and baby, it was a real splurge, since I was living on expired foods from the dented can store at the time. While the course wasn’t particularly useful in terms of craft, it did teach me how to critique and be critiqued. Baring your soul to peers is terrifying, and even though I cried at some of the harsh reviews of my work, I learned, I held my own, and I made a few friends. One of them had just taken Barbara Rogan’s Next Level workshop, and she encouraged me to do so as well, even if it meant selling an organ or turning tricks on Second Street. I borrowed the money instead, and ate more expired soup. Even though I can no longer stomach the smell of Campbell’s vegetable beef soup, I do not regret my decision. Barbara honed my skills and stripped me of the low self esteem holding me back.
Several years later, I typed THE END again. This time, I netted a 20% request rate. I ended up with a contract and a novel that is scheduled for release on February 11th. I have no idea how successful it will be. I’m still flying by the seat of my pants here. The one thing I know for sure, though, is that I did it. I finally did it. How do I know? Because nothing says YOU DID IT quite like seeing your first book cover, and here’s mine: