Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Persistence Eventually Paid Off

By R.J. Harlick

How long did it take for you to become an overnight sensation? (How many days/months/years after you began seriously writing a novel did it take for you to get published?)

Let me see. I tapped the first words of my first novel into the computer in the summer of 1996, after deciding it was time to put my dreams into action and see if I could become a fiction writer. Eight years later in 2004, I finally had the thrill of holding the published book in my hands.  Eight long years of hard work, stubborn persistence but most importantly fun.  The book by the way was Death’s Golden Whisper, the first in the Meg Harris series, which has just acquired a new cover as it goes into its third printing.

My first goal was to see if I could actually write a full length novel. With little idea where the story was headed I started writing the opening scene, which evolved into the next one and so on. They soon formed a chapter, followed by another chapter, which in turn led to another. About halfway through I knew I was going to be able to finish the book. I also discovered one other thing. I really enjoyed writing.

Although I was an avid fiction reader I knew nothing about the writing of it. The writing I did in my work as a consultant was business related, like reports and proposals, though some of my clients might have thought it creative writing. I soon learned the writing of fiction was completely different. So while I wrote this first book I was also learning the art of writing fiction. I took a few courses, read a number of writing books, practiced on short stories, joined a writing association, became a member of a critique group and ended up rewriting the book four times.

You’d think that by the time I reached the fourth rewrite I would’ve tossed it into a drawer and started on another book. But I guess this is where my stubborn persistent took over. I was determined to make it the best book I could write. I also discovered I enjoyed the rewriting. It enabled me to get to know the story and my characters that much better which allowed me to refine it into a better book.

My next goal was to get it published. When I started on this writing venture, it was early days for electronic publishing and having it self-published wasn’t an option other than through vanity presses, which charged a fortune and had no distribution. I soon developed a thick hide as rejection letter after rejection letter fluttered in from agents and publishers alike. Ever persistent, I would rewrite it and send it back out again. Finally, after the third rewrite a publisher said yes.  It took another two years and another rewrite before I could hold it in my hands as a published book. I tell you that was one very special moment.

I suppose a question you might ask is whether I would be so persistent if I were starting out today when self-publishing is so readily available. I think the answer would likely be yes, because I am inherently lazy. I want to concentrate on the writing and would rather a publisher handle book design, printing, promotion, distribution, soliciting of reviews and sales.

As for the length of time it took for me to become an overnight sensation. I’m still waiting…

What about you? How long did it take for you to get your first book published?


Susan C Shea said...

Good story of persistence and the importance of setting ego aside and being willing to look at your own manuscript with fresh eyes again and again.

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Susan. I'm sure you've been just as stubbornly persistent. One can't be a published writer without it.