On getting the gig: a long road travelled.

I write part time, fitting it in around a full-time job, full-time family, and study. So every goal I’ve achieved seems to have taken forever. I believe the key is dogged determination, almost obsessive persistence, and the realisation that writing stories is more than the putting down of words on paper. Writing begins with imagining and is filled with experiencing. Knowing this helps me get through the times when I cannot write and takes the pressure off the need to obtain visible results.

Which is just as well as its taken 13 years from the start of my first serious manuscript to being offered a contract to publish. Eight years to write the darn thing (including several rewrites) followed by six years of submitting to agents and publishers. In that time, I learned many things. The most important is to not take rejection personally.

In 2005, I went on a research roadtrip to the USA. Here I am (green top) with friend Jacquie beside the Animas River, Farmington, New Mexico.

In 2005, I went on a research roadtrip to the USA. Here I am (green top) with friend Jacquie beside the Animas River, Farmington, New Mexico.

Late 2012, I thought I’d give the manuscript another try. I found an independent publisher who sounded like a good match for my story, and prepared a proposal and a cover letter. Then heard about another publisher from a friend on Twitter. Vacen Taylor is someone I “met” from commenting on blogs. I liked what she wrote. She liked what I wrote. When Vacen announced a contract with Odyssey Books the same week I was preparing my latest proposal I thought I’d go take a look.

Odyssey Books is a small independent publisher in Australia run by Michelle Lovi. Michelle has a varied list of books and the submission guidelines on her website are encouraging. Also, her turn around for submissions was shorter by two weeks than the publisher I was about to approach. I rewrote my proposal to suit and sent it off.

About a month later, an email arrived requesting the complete manuscript. I obeyed and tried not to read too much into it (a third thing I’ve learned over the years is patience). Christmas and all its busyness came. We slipped into January, a high-pressure work period for me and I received another email asking me if my story was still available and was I interested in publishing…

Not as practiced with acceptance as I am with rejection, I all but jumped out of my seat with astonishment. Excitement followed on astonishment’s coat tails. Then gut-churning fear took over as I mentally leaped forward in time to when the story was published and nobody liked it!

A week’s worth of hard self-talk ensued and I thank my daughter and John Steinbeck in helping with that (more on Steinbeck in another post).

So, I’ve got the gig. The story is now being scrutinised by an editor. No doubt, there’ll be some rewriting in order next as I’ve been so close to it for so long, blind spots are sure to have developed.

In the meantime, Vacen’s book, Starchild – Book One: The Age of Akra  has been released and is on the receiving end of some good reviews. I’ve ordered my copy and can’t wait to read it. Michelle at Odyssey Books is ever helpful and has encouraged me to start promoting my upcoming novel by joining in the social media marketing circus and building up “Brand Me”.

Here are ten tips for readers who are writers waiting to be published authors.

  1. Write, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite…
  2. Research to the nth degree. Most details won’t go into your story, but you’ll know what you’re talking about and that comes through in your writing
  3. Workshop chapters with writers. I took part in many online writing groups and a few real life groups
  4. Obtain a manuscript assessment. I spent a week with Peter Bishop at Varuna Writer’s House. It was a rewarding time for the story and for me. At the end of the week, my manuscript was complete
  5. Spend time developing your proposal. This is your toe in the door so it needs to work. Do some research into proposals and cover letters. Keep it clear and concise, and submit to agents/publishers who are a good match for what you’ve written
  6. This all takes time, be patient
  7. Rejection is an opportunity to fine-tune your submission. Learn from each rejection and take the time to read what has been said. Some of the correspondence is form, others will provide feedback
  8. Rejection is not failure. Failure is giving up. I was close to giving up with this particular manuscript, but not to giving up all together. I have another manuscript waiting and one in progress
  9. Go to TED talks and listen to JK Rowling’s talk: The Fringe Benefits of Failure
  10. Be brave

Join me on FaceBook and Twitter: @PatriciaLeslieA

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7 thoughts on “On getting the gig: a long road travelled.

    • Thanks, Michele. I only hope the next novel won’t take so long. Mind you, I did first write it in 2005…. My third manuscript was started in 2009. I seem to be either consistently slow or consistently interrupted.

  1. Pingback: Rejection to a writer is like blood to a surgeon | Broadside

  2. The JK Rowling talk is so inspirational, even for people who aren’t fans of Harry Potter (and I am definitely a fan). It’s clear that your book is a result of your dedication and hard-work, you’ve earned this!

    • Thanks, Cheyne. It’s always great to hear that the successful people usually had to travel a long road and grapple with human frailties (like fear) just like the rest of us. I really wish I could be at your Cemetery Tour next week but Darwin beckons…. Good luck. Everyone is expecting huge crowds for you again this year.

  3. Hi Patricia. This is a good little read in itself and a reminder for me that even something that “seems to take forever” during fractured bits of snatched time can eventually peek out into the light of day. I look forward to seeing it. I like your remark about not being so “practiced at acceptance ..”

    • Thanks, Mark. If anything can teach a person patience it’s trying to get a book written and published. The next big lesson is in not taking things personally. Thanks for commenting and good luck with your publishing journey as well.

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