I’ve loved to read as far back as I can remember. I had a lonely childhood and immersed myself in the wonderful tales spun like magic on the pages in my hands. The characters became my playmates when I was unable to see my friends for whatever reason.
It’s funny though – I never once stopped to think about the authors or the process they go through to get that wonderful gift into my hands. Obviously I knew someone had sat down and lovingly created the story, but in my ignorance I didn’t stop to think about them as people.
I would go into the library in school or town or into my local bookshop and see row upon row of hardback and paperback capsules of knowledge, wonderful worlds and people and pure escapism. I would pick books off the shelves and consume the synopsis on the back, letting my imagination ride over green fields ringed with trees that spoke and animals that were almost human, when seeing words like ‘magic’, ‘castle’, ‘witches’, ‘fairies’ etc.
Even when writing my own short stories I still never considered all the hard work each and every author does in order to get their fabulous stories onto those library and bookshop shelves. In my naiveté, I guess I thought they wrote the stories, took them to a printer and voila, out pops a book.
You know, it wasn’t until I wrote Heart Search: Lost that I finally understood.
It took me 9-months to write the first draft, most of that while holding down a full-time job, teaching two nights a week and looking after a home and my daughter. It took my editor about 2-months to get through it (she was working on other things at the time as well), then I had the first round of revisions to do. I then edited the manuscript myself to check all my revisions worked before sending it out to an alpha reader.
My alpha reader doesn’t normally read novels in the Fantasy genre, so perhaps I was taking a bit of a gamble . . . but then again, maybe not . . . SHE LOVED IT!! She gave me some very useful feedback, which was great, but the fact that she loved what I’d written gave me a tremendous boost. It gave me hope that maybe I was quite good at this, that my writing had some value and was entertaining.
Taking the feedback I received, I revised and edited again before sending it to a beta reader. This lady is a friend who is also a senior editor at a US publishing company. I trusted her, not only with my manuscript, but also impartial and honest feedback. That was exactly what I got! She suggested structural changes for some of the chapters and a few other things that I hadn’t really thought too much about. She was (and still is) incredibly supportive of me and my work and what makes it even more amazing – Alison and I have never met in person! (This is a whole other story for another blog post – maybe . . .).
So back I went again and revised for the third, or was it fourth time, implementing Alison’s insightful suggestions. I then gave it to my editor again and whip in hand, told her I needed it back within two weeks. She gave me one of her ‘looks’ (you know the one – peering over the top of her specs, eyebrows raised and lips slightly pursed in disapproval – I can see you picturing it now!), and said she’d do her best. Bless her heart, Maria (my editor) pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and got it done within the two weeks. Thankfully I only had minimal changes to make and then it was done.
Then the hard work really started. Oh, please don’t get me wrong; writing the novel, doing revision after revision after revision, edits etc., is hard work, but because you have so much of yourself invested in the plotlines and characters, it’s more a labour of love. What I’m talking about is the next phase of the process – trying to get published.
The first thing to do is decide which route is right for you and the research in itself is quite time consuming. There’s traditional publishing with an agent; traditional publishing without an agent (very tricky to get a deal, especially these days); independent publishers – printed books; independent publishers – ebooks; or self-publishing.
Having decided which route you want to take, you then need to research the submission guidelines for each agent/publisher you want to submit to and ensure that you stick rigidly to their guidelines. Each one is a little different so you have to tailor the next stages to their precise requirements.
The next stage is to write a synopsis of your book. This is not a chapter by chapter account, more a page or two giving the main story line, highlights, and most importantly, the ending. This document has to grab the publisher or agent’s interest so needs to be written, revised, revised again and edited to ensure excellent grammar and spelling.
Then comes the query letter which includes a one-paragraph synopsis of your novel. Again grammar and spelling is of the utmost importance, but more than this, the letter has to be professional, succinct and powerful enough for the agent/publisher to want to read your entire novel (you only normally send the first couple of chapters at this stage). More revisions and editing until this is the best it can possibly be.
Finally, you need to write a short biography. They don’t want your life history so a short paragraph about you will do.
Having done all the above it’s time to bite the bullet and submit your work to your chosen agent/publisher. And wait. And wait. And wait.
This is the stage I’m currently at. I decided to try the traditional publishing route through an agent. I picked the agent carefully, followed their submission guidelines and sent everything off on Friday 13th April (Friday 13th??? I know – crazy right?!). I’m now waiting in a densely populated place called Hope. I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ll get picked up by the first agent I approach, but who knows? Maybe I’ve done everything right. Maybe they will like what I’ve sent them enough to want to see my entire manuscript (all 152,000 words of it). And maybe they won’t.
It’s all a learning curve and I’m strong enough to face rejection if that’s what comes my way. I have other options and a plan in place should they not accept me. Whatever happens, I’m not giving up. I’ve already started writing book 2 and have plans for a third novel to round off the story. I’m going to keep trying to get my work out there and hope that my writing will give another person the same level of enjoyment and entertainment that I’ve taken for granted for too many years.
This post would not be complete without acknowledging the three people who got me this far.
My alpha reader and best friend, Jakki
My wonderful editor, Maria http://twitter.com/Maria7627
My dear friend and beta reader, Alison DeLuca (author of The Night Watchman Express & Devil’s Kitchen and senior editor at Fantasy Island Book Publishing)