I’d like to introduce a client of mine, Alison Mather, who’s recently signed with a prestigious literary agency in the UK. She’s had an interesting journey (to say the least) and has agreed to share it with you. I think you’ll find it inspiring:
Perseverance. It’s a word most commonly used when telling a person’s story of triumph, after they’ve triumphed – which is all well and good and serves as a reminder that your goal can be achieved, but is utterly horrible when you’re actually trying to do it: being perseverant. At least it is to me. I find it very much akin to what I imagine being lost in the wilderness to be like (without the constant threat of sudden death). What direction should I take? How do I know if this step is the right one? What if I’m just going around in circles? Why are the signposts so damned hard to find?
Okay, so that’s where the analogy ends because most people know that the best thing to do if you are physically lost is to stay still and that is absolutely, positively the worst thing you could do if you ever want to be a published author.
During my own journey as a writer I have asked all of these questions every step of the way, and a heck of a lot more. The results can be stultifying and very damaging to your chances if you are the sort to give up easily.
I am one of ‘those’ people who took time off to write. I am very lucky to have an extremely supportive spouse who encouraged me to do so. If you are now thinking that means I’ve had it easy, think again. Six months into writing my first manuscript I was diagnosed with thyroid disease, my husband was retrenched from his job and a 24 foot tree fell on our house during the big Brisbane storms. Add to that, I received nothing but rejection letters to every single query I sent out to publishers and agents. Things were not going to plan and it was very, very hard.
Somehow, though – and here is where the perseverance bit comes in – I managed to write a second, and much better, manuscript and tried again. Now, five years later, I have just signed with a literary agency and am starting work on editing the story – for what feels like the billionth time – in the more real hope of interesting a publisher.
Not the ideal journey to becoming an author, perhaps, but here’s what I’ve learned:
Your writing is key – do everything possible to ensure it is the best it can be, and I don’t mean asking your family. They will always be on your side and that’s not what you need. Join your local Writer’s Centre and find a manuscript assessor. I edited my own work three times and then hired Louise to edit it again. Is it really worth the expense? I sent my work, edited by me, to every publisher in Australia and it was rejected. I paid for professional advice and now I have an agent.
Listen to everything that’s being said to you by the people who know. I was rejected by a tonne of agents earlier this year but one actually took the time to write a personal letter of explanation suggesting that I was aiming at the wrong age group. I was so cut up about the rejection that I almost missed the significance of that particular crumb of advice. And they will be crumbs and you have to fall on them like they’re nuggets of gold, even if all you can hear is the criticism.
Cast a wide net – as in global wide. My agent is in London. By all means go local to begin but understand that there are a handful of publishers and agents in Australia and a shedload of writers – unless you’ve written that must-have story in which case I’m struggling with my resentment. I smashed the internet doing research and you really have to look. I strongly recommend the following websites: www.literaryrambles.com for agents that rep in your genre, www.writersdigest.com for new agents alerts – you have far more chance with agents who are looking to build their lists, Sarah’s blog at www.greenhouseliterary.com for tips on query writing and many more that I can’t fit in here.
Remember, I was totally green, I knew nothing about the industry that I was hoping to carve a career in, but I dedicated myself to it utterly and I’ve made it this far. You can too.
Writing success really is one part inspiration and ten parts perspiration. Keep at it, and if you’ve got any tips on how to keep motivation up while persevering, do share them with us below. Cheers! Louise