The road to publicationis full of potholes… or how I became a ‘real’ author
Like just about every other writer you may meet, my road to being published was long and consisted of plenty of stops, side roads that led to nowhere and extended periods of inactivity. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, but I haven’t met any yet and I’m not convinced I would like them if I did. I mean it would be like being in high school again surrounded by all those taller, thinner, prettier girls with bottoms like Russian gymnasts who always smile smugly whenever you try to complete one of those trampoline spring things. Anyway…
I decided I wanted to seriously write books in 1997. Like everyone else I spent years collecting the required amount of rejections and cultivating a lot of angst staring at the computer. I wrote short stories, I made lots of false starts and went to festivals and I read as many ‘writers on writing’ books as I could. Then I entered the Australian Women’s Weekly short story contest in 2003 and won. That competition was really the turning point as it got my name ‘out there’ and led to an invitation to contribute a short story to Girl’s Night In 4 (published by Penguin) which I wrote under the name Lara Martin and also, four years later, to my getting an agent. The very hard working woman who is now my agent was actually a judge for that Women’s Weekly contest and we were both amazed when, just like serendipity, I sent her a query letter and a few chapters of Awakening. She loved it, took me on and a few months later had done a deal with Pan Macmillan Australia in late 2007. So it only took ten years. But if you measure it in galactic terms I’m sure it’s much shorter.
The amount of advice for writers available in books and on the net is immense, and some of it written by such luminaries of literature that you are much better off searching for some of their erudite and wonderful words of wisdom (see below) than listening to me waffle on. I will offer this though: I keep a quote above my desk by E.L. Doctorow and I have often found it very comforting when I feel like I’m slogging away on a scene that seems to be making very little sense. It really gets to the heart of what it can be like trying to make it through to the end of your work.
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow
Then there is always the immortal Yoda: “Do, or do not, there is no try.”
Books to help and inspire:
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. – full of humour and insight into all your writer neuroses,
On Writing, by Stephen King – a classic including tips on writing and life.
Steering the Craft, by Ursula Le Guin – a workbook from one of our greatest writers
The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White – a writer’s bible for grammar and style
Self Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne & Dave King – a super helpful guide