Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Aspiring Novelists - Learn From My Mistakes

Not a pretty sight, is it? Or some, might say, it's impressive. Either way, that pile represents the work I've put in, over the years, in trying to get published.

I'd written, ahem, let's just say a few novels before getting a publishing deal for my debut romantic comedy, Doubting Abbey. A bit like kissing lots of frogs to find your prince, quite a number of submissions went out, over the years, before I found Harlequin's Carina UK.

So what mistakes did I make along the way? Here's the benefit of my knowledge for you.

1 - Don't set yourself a New Year's Resolution of "to get published" like I did, as this is an unrealistic goal. Set yourself small achievable (and therefore ego-boosting) steps such as "this year I will complete my novel" or " this year I will take the plunge and send my book out to agents".

2 - Don't write novels for years, without writing short stories as well. The short form will help you in so many ways and really focus your eye on chapter structure and padding in your work which needs to be cut out.
Also, if you make a short story sale, this will be a real boost and form of validation, if your novel rejections are  piling up.

3 -  Don't nudge about submissions too early. I am the most impatient person on earth and in retrospect some of my early nudges probably resulted in a straightforward rejection. Having said  that don't wait forever either - you deserve the courtesy of a reply within a few months. 

4 - Get feedback on your work. I didn't do this with my first novel until I'd written the whole thing. Join an online forum like WriteWords where you can join groups and get critques. Or, if you can afford it, get an editorial report done on one of your manuscripts, from agencies like Cornerstones and BubbleCow (both of which I have used to my satisfaction.)

5 - To save unnecessary tears, try to accept, early on, that your journey might be a long one. When I started out, in my late thirties, writing novels, I was convinced I'd be published by the age of forty. That was very naive looking back. I had a lot to learn about my craft.

6 - Don't mentally hinge all your self-worth on becoming a published author. I did this for a long time and it's not good for the soul. Remind yourself of all the other things you are great at - being a parent or partner or in your full-time job... Writing may be your vocation but if your journey to publication is a rocky one, you must try to distance yourself from the criticism, disappointments and rejection you will meet. Yet another " no" from an agent does not mean you are a failure - it means you are forging your way forward, getting your work out there.

7 - And finally, my journey to publication has been a rollercoaster of emotions and dress sizes... Try not to get into the habit of eating chocolate over the keyboard!


  1. Been there and done most of those! But what do they say - the difference between the unpublished writer and the published one is persistence? Keeping on keeping on, when the world seems to want to brush off your ambitions is one of the hardest things ever! Nice list, and very helpfully inspirational. x

  2. Thanks, Jane, and good advice from you. I think determination is almost more important than talent x

  3. Lots of great tips here!! Especially the chocolate on the keyboard one. So ...cake is OK, yeah?

  4. Excellent point, Carol! Um, yes - and crisps, of course ;) x

  5. Thanks for sharing your knowledge Samantha! It's too late for me in regards to Point number 7 but hopefully 1 - 6 may help :))

  6. LOL, thanks Samantha! Yes way too late for me as well.. :)