Over on Tik Tok last week I was talking about how to find an agent as part of a series, Writing Tips for Writers. I could talk to you for hours about this, because the story is long and convoluted. I won’t though, because I managed to scale it down into a one-minute video. The short version goes something like this. I wrote a book, shipped it out to agents, it got rejected. After emigrating I wrote six more, and self-published five. My seventh book was all set to be self-published too, with a title and cover ready to go (which I still think was great) but at the last minute on a hunch/whim, I decided to do a round of agent submissions. That got me representation, a book deal, and rights sold in 17 territories.
There were a number of moments during that journey where I thought about giving up. After book one not getting picked up. After some bad reviews of my first book once it was for sale on Amazon. After book five, when I made a half-hearted attempt to get an agent and didn’t. But something kept drawing me back for another go. Considering that it takes the best part of a year for me to write, edit, and produce a book, what is it that kept pushing me to try?
Writing, by its very nature, is a practice. It’s something that we are doing from the age we can hold a pencil, finding a medium by which we can express our thoughts. My five-year-old is learning to write at the moment, and writes phonically on her drawings. While she is not a writer by the conventional definition, she is making her first steps onto that path.
Because the first time I tried to write a book, it wasn’t all that well executed. It awful, and it didn’t look like a five-year-old had done it, but that was only because I had spent a lifetime reading, and knew roughly what it was supposed to look like. Perhaps in the same way my daughter can draw a face with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Creative skills are something we are born with. But the difference between me and my daughter drawing a face, or me and my twenty-year-old self attempting to write a book is practice. Skills are acquired, then refined over time.
Writing books that people like, and that stirs their emotions is very rarely something we do right from the first try. And yet, when I wrote the first one, and sent it off in the hope of securing an agent, I really thought it was. It wasn’t, and the rejection hurt. But each book I have written, and therefore each rejection, was a step further in my journey. Each of those books contributed to the writer I am today, and to the success of any book I might write in the future.
To date, I have written;
By that total, I am currently writing my fifteenth book. I knew that a couple of these in this list weren’t good enough. A couple of them came at a cost, and it was a hard hit to take. That third thriller that didn’t sell….ouch. But still I continued to write. In fact, that first women’s fiction book, written on the back of a no-sell, went on to be the best deal I have had to date. I wrote for a year after that rejection, believing I could write better, and I did. All of this said, I have no qualifications in literature, save an A level. No connections in publishing. But what I have is a desire to write, a willingness to accept it as a practice, and I was committed to its continued improvement. And finally, of course, persistence. Because persistence, for any writer who is committed to improving, is the single most important factor when it comes to getting a book deal.
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