My publishing career began when I was in third grade--yes, I know, mine and everybody else's--But I wrote a little poem for a Department of Defense Schools publication, and it was chosen to be published. To this day, I still have a copy of that book. The poem is silly, but it got me hooked on writing. Although my career did lapse between third grade and adulthood, the creative spark didn't. It manifested itself in many ways--poetry, journalism, short stories, drama, music.
And then one day--because I'm a hopeless romantic--I picked up a sweet Harlequin romance. My first reaction was, "These would be sooo easy to write," so I decided to become a romance author. This attitude, of course, was extremely arrogant of me, because they are not easy to write, but what did I know? So, I wielded my word processor, pumped out 50,000 of the most awful words ever strung together, and sent them to an editor (which she promptly rejected)...and then I strung together 60,000 words that were not quite as bad as the first 50K, but still not near enough to good to be considered a viable story. This is the road to publishing--putting together words that don't work until your craft is honed to the point where the letters you string together are not just words, but a journey, a getaway for your reader which takes them to another place for a time. I've found over the years, that unless I apply three distinct Ps to my writing, I do not find success, and so I try always to keep them in mind. Those three Ps are: Practice, Prioritization, and Perseverance.
Practice: never stop learning. I've been writing seriously now for almost twenty years, and I can still find ways to improve my skill. I listen to constructive criticism, tips from other successful authors, I read similar pieces to analyze how others construct stories, and then I utilize the information to write my own stories. To write is the only way I can improve my writing. I think of it in the same way I would a sport: I can't win the game if I don't show up for the practices. The adage is true: Practice makes Perfect.
Prioritization: Unless I make time to write, I don't get any writing done. It doesn't matter how much I want to write, if I let other things get in the way, then no words are formed, no story woven. And in turn, no story submitted for publication. So, I deliberately allot time to write.
Perseverance: My novel, The Resurrection of Lady Somerset (Sept. 2007), is a testament to perseverance. When I wrote this one, I submitted it to a contest in which it took second place. I was thrilled, and thought it would be picked up right away. It wasn't. But I wasn't discouraged. Rejection is a part of publishing. But, during this time, I experienced some things within the publishing world which made me decide to hang up my ink and quill, and I chose to forget this business of publishing novels. I turned my attention strictly to Christian non-fiction (which I still do write).
There's a funny coincidence to publishing: If you're not submitting, you're not selling. I wasn't selling any novels, but then, I wasn't submitting any, either.
And then, one day, after many years, a friend of mine asked me to help with a writers' conference--and I started thinking about this manuscript I had laying in a drawer (well, in a file on my computer). This story was my pinnacle to the point at which I wrote it, and it was a shame I had laid it aside. The bug was back. I opened up the manuscript read it. And you know what I found? The story wasn't half bad. Of course, because I'd continued to write (albeit, non-fiction) I could see flaws in the text, and so I edited the manuscript and submitted it to a publisher--who promptly rejected it! I began to feel as if the story would never be published. But I still did not give up. I submitted again. Eventually, it found a home--and then it received a 4-Star review from Romantic Times Magazine! Where would this story be had I not persevered through the rejections? And how long ago would it have been published if I had not taken a hiatus in submitting it? Perseverance is the key.
So, my advice to novices: Utilize the three Ps: Practice, Prioritization, and Perseverance. But more importantly, enjoy your writing; publication should be the icing, not the cake.
Nicola Beaumont is the author of THE RESURRECTION OF LADY SOMERSET (Wild Rose Press, Sept. '07). You can visit her website at http://www.inicola.net/.