Eleven years. That’s how long it took me to get a book deal. So you can see why my response to newbie writers, upset they haven’t gotten their agent or deal yet, is: “Come back and see me when it’s been a decade.”
I started writing my first novel in the summer of 2003, and I landed my 5-book debut deal with DAW Books in June 2014. That’s eleven years of reading and writing, editing and querying, critiquing and submitting, and receiving lots and lots of rejections. Along the way, I completed four polished novels, queried three of them, and wrote a couple failures that never made it to the final draft. Now I could write a long-winded article all about the trip, but it would mainly consist of: read a lot, wrote a lot, edited tons, critiqued and got critiques, queried, got rejected, got demoralized, clawed my way back from the darkness… Repeated several times! So instead, I’ll share some tips that I learned along the way that other writers may find helpful.
Tips for Writers
*Don’t spend all your time trying to avoid making rookie mistakes. Avoiding things only teaches you how to avoid things. Making the rookie mistakes teaches you how to do things right.
*Never let anyone tell you there’s only one way to write something or one way to be a writer. Writers and writing styles come in all shapes and forms. Don’t let someone else push their style on you—find your own.
*Feedback is important, but it can be hard not to take it personally. I like to read my feedback, then take a step back for a few days before doing anything. This gives me time to get over the initial knee-jerk defensiveness so I’m in a good place to really consider the feedback.
*Know your market and read extensively in your genre. Only by knowing the market can you get an idea of what is salable, and what isn’t.
*Genre, sub-genre, story concept. These all matter if you want to get a book deal. Why? Because publishing is a business, and ultimately it’s not just about writing a good book, but writing something that’s salable in the market. Don’t just pick a project willy-nilly. Instead, conceptualize a project that you can both love and will be salable in the market.
*Persistence is key. Writing is a very difficult field to break into, so don’t get demoralized if you don’t succeed the first time out. Instead, analyze where you went wrong so you can fix it for next time.
*Query widely. I didn’t get an offer of representation out of the first 50 queries I sent for Nova. I got three offers out of the second fifty.
And my Final Tip: Embark on the writing journey with the attitude that, even if you never get anywhere in the field, the journey alone is still worth it.
Margaret Fortune began writing in first grade, when her short story “The Numbers’ Birthday Party” made a huge splash at her elementary school. A year later, her family moved to Wisconsin, where they owned and operated an independent bookstore for over a decade.
She has a BA in psychology from the University of Minnesota – Morris, and has short fiction published or forthcoming in multiple magazines, including Nth Zine, Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, and Space and Time. Nova, the first book in a 5-book series, is forthcoming from DAW Books in June 2015.
The clock activates so suddenly in my mind, my head involuntarily jerks a bit to the side. The fog vanishes, dissipated in an instant as though it never was. Memories come slotting into place, their edges sharp enough to leave furrows, and suddenly I know. I know exactly who I am.
My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.
And I am a genetically engineered human bomb.
Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode. But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.
Drawn to Michael and his family against her better judgment, Lia starts learning what it means to live and love, and to be human. It is only when her countdown clock begins sporadically losing time that she realizes even duds can still blow up. If she wants any chance at a future, she must find a way to unlock the secrets of her past and stop her clock. But as Lia digs into her origins, she begins to suspect there’s far more to her mission and to this war, than meets the eye. With the fate of not just a space station but an entire empire hanging in the balance, Lia races to find the truth before her time—literally—runs out.
Releases June 2nd, 2015!