If asked how to write a book and publish it, I can’t really speak for others, but I can tell you how I pulled it off. Here’s the skinny:
- I bought a book on how to write a book. I followed the directions, made index cards, detailed plot points, drew up story lines.
- I wrote the book with the plot and subplots that had been in my head for years. It took a year. When I read what I’d written, it didn’t sound like any book I’d ever read. It was far from good.
- Key point. The fact my first draft was awful did not deter me. I took a pause, read more books in my genre, and edited my first draft. It was better, but it still didn’t read like a published book.
- I joined a critique group and took pieces of my book to weekly meetings where they ripped it to shreds. It helped. Warning on critique groups. You need to get savvy on what to take away and throw away from a critique meeting.
- I’d take month long breaks from novel writing to write short stories. I sent my polished shorts off to contests and magazines.
- I learned from reject letters and when I published a short, I used it as a thermometer to tell me what level I'd risen to. Writing shorts and receiving feedback, improved my writing skills.
- I’d go to the Killer Nashville Writers Conference year after year, pen and pad in hand, and go to every session on topics I had not yet grasped.
- I read more self-help books this time on plot, structure, and basic rewriting if your manuscript. My 150,000-word book was now down to 110,000 and I started submitting it to publishers and agents like crazy, which stopped when I could no longer take the onslaught of rejection letters.
- Instead, I started sending segments of my book to contests where the judges gave critiques. There were many, but some were especially helpful: The Sandy Contest, the Colorado Gold Writing Contest, and the PNWA Literary Contest. I never won, but I used every suggestion given by the judges and my manuscript was the better for it.
- Then I found The Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest where I could submit my book in its entirety. It cost nothing and the winning prize was $10,000 along with publication. The only entry requirement was not to have already published a novel. My first submission did not make the finals, so I went back to the drawing board. My book was getting smaller, now down to 95,000 words. The second year, I did not make the finals again, but my assigned judge sent me an e-mail telling me it had promise. The judge assigned to me the third year, sent my manuscript to the finals, big step, but another author’s book won. I didn’t know how close I might’ve been to beating the winning author until the fourth year when I went to the finals again. This time none of the finalists were good enough for publication. That did it! I had more work to do and this time I needed to revise it for publication. I didn’t have time to wait another year to re-enter the contest.
- I tore through my book again, taking pieces of it to my critique groups, using my self-help books, my notes from the Killer Nashville conferences, judges comments from various contests. I revised and revised and then began submitting my manuscript, now down to 85,000-words, to publishers and agents again. Bingo! Black Opal Books read my entire book and asked to publish it.
This was a ten-year run for me and a lot harder than I’d thought when I first started out. Was it worth all the work and frustration? Absolutely! That would take a whole other post to explain why.
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