The Big Jump: Getting Started Writing

I’m often asked the same question by writers yearning to be published: How did you get started? I began by writing small. The full timeline for my writing journey appears below, but here’s the fast forward version:

I wrote short pieces, 500-1500 words, for small, and gradually, larger publications. At first, I met with rejection, but I pressed on and soon, publication became the norm. Local publications did not pay, but the larger ones did. I almost felt like a real writer.

Next, I took notes for a book of historical fiction. I turned these notes into a few chapters, the first of which I submitted to the San Francisco Writers’ Conference for a scholarship contest. I won, and attended. This was the turning point that made me think I could actually write a whole novel.

I started to write the novel. Not the historical fiction story, but a mystery, which was a lot more fun. I couldn’t believe I wrote 9000 words, then 25,000 and finally 90,000. It was a miracle. I wrote the first draft in nine months. It wasn’t very good.

For the next nearly two years, I rewrote and polished ’til my knuckles were sore. There was a lot of blood. And sweat and tears. A few tantrums and days where I trashed everything I wrote. All while working full-time. I finally finished. I sent out the manuscript, got an offer of publication from a small press out of New York and signed. Yippee! All that hard work paid off – my publisher changed nary a word.

Here’s the timeline for my journey:

1999: Wrote a teleplay and pitched to several movie studios. One bite, lots of chewing, but ultimately the project was spit up. I realized I wanted to write a novel, but where the heck was I going to come up with 80,000 words? And what kind of novel? The prospect was daunting.

2005-2009: Wrote and submitted short articles/essays/opinion pieces to local and national publications featuring escapades with my children, my animals, and my shift from city girl to country bumpkin. About 70% of the submissions were published.

2007-2009: Wrote a blog under a pseudonym about a subject I didn’t want anyone to know I was writing. I spoke freely and experimented. In retrospect, to my astonishment, a few posts were actually well written.

2009-2010: I tried to turn my blog posts into a work of non-fiction and created a proposal which I submitted to a few agents. I realized I didn’t like the subject matter. I focused on writing fiction. I longed to write a mystery!

2010-2012: I collected notes for a work of historical fiction. I submitted a chapter based on my notes to a small contest where an agent would review said chapter. I received brief, but positive feedback.

January 2012: I happened upon a contest for a scholarship to the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. I rewrote the first chapter of my historical fiction and submitted. I won! More astonishment. I attended (it was spectacular because agents thought I could really write)!

February 2012: Started to write the mystery novel based on my real life working as a newly minted lawyer in a movie studio. I dozed off often on the nearly autobiographical account. I changed it to a mostly fictional account and started to have fun.

November 2012: I sent my first draft to a few NY agents. All ignored me except one. He said the only thing he liked about my book was the title. I swore off writing forever.

January 2013: The major rewriting began. I took classes (thru the wonderful Guppies’ chapter of Sisters in Crime – a huge help), got beta readers and revised, revised, revised!

May 2014: Another incredible surprise – I was one of two national winners of the Helen McCloy/Mystery Writers’ of America scholarship award! I’d forgotten I’d even entered the contest. How marvelous!

October 2014: Finally finished and sent out the manuscript. Had a few agents interested, but signed with The Wild Rose Press as they offered me a contract! Hooray!

I left out all the rejections in between (I periodically sent out the manuscript in its various forms), as I have no wish to relive that part of the process. Most important is to forge ahead wearing blinders and ear plugs. The journey is a rugged one, but the destination is well worth it!

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7 years ago

Your blog is always help me to decide what I am going to do.
Good job.

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