It’s been such a long time since those first words:
A hand reached around the corner, and the lifeblood of Mama Jenkins spilled over the pink marble floors of St. Luke’s Hospital. Or something to that affect.
At any rate, it was hideous writing, but the daughters I’d written it for were pleased. They had something to read while we were in Chicago visiting. My oldest went through books like most of go through clean socks. And so, while she finished her latest Mary Higgins Clark just before the trip, I knew she’d need something to read. And voila—my on-the-way to Chicago masterpiece.
I’ve since read through that story which I sent to every agent and publisher in the industry, I’m sure. It is, in a word, the worst novella ever. But it started the juices flowing and I’m grateful for my own personal dark and stormy night. It brought back that desire to write that I’d nurtured in my earliest years.
About a year later, another circumstance to do with my girls triggered a latent fear and I wrote my second book. This one a novel. And this one, much better than the first. But still a VERY long way from a good read.
Twenty years after the reaching hand, my first novella was published. And yes, it was absolutely as exciting as we hope for first books to be. Shortly after that, my first novels.
What made the difference?
A great many classes, conferences, and an amazing critique group.
I know we talk about the importance of crit groups and getting into classes, but it is the difference between mediocre and a good, finished product. A great finished product.
There are wonderful online classes, and many organizations offer them free. There are also FREE organizations. Some have separate levels of membership so that a writer can pick and choose how much or how little they want to be involved.
My advice to every debut author? Get into a critique group, join organizations that you can afford and offer what you need, and WRITE. Don’t stop writing. Each time you sit down at the computer and bang on the keys, you will get better.
And you might not have to wait 20 years for your first novella to be published!