So, you want to write a novel
It was in June of 2019 that I decided the time had come to work on a novel that had lived in the back of my mind for years. I was maybe about one-third of the way down to Maine — where I’d spent every summer since I was 11 — when I began to see the story coming together. Gliding along the highway, listening to music, and feeling the freedom that comes with a long, solo drive, my creative juices flowed so much that when I arrived — after the eight-hour car ride — I began researching writing coaches.
Within a few days, I found one that seemed suited to me. She lived in California and had that laid-back vibe that eased me into the process. I learned a lot from her and could feel the story coming together that summer. We worked throughout the fall and into the early part of winter 2020.
I loved my book and was anxious to share it and began to research agents until I came across one that not only lived in my city but had represented one of my all-time favourite authors. I reached out to her, and we connected. Everything was coming together beautifully with this new career I had just begun to embark on.
I met with the agent and discussed my book, which she was open to considering. I could not believe my good fortune. When I decided my book was ready — after about nine months into this brand-new adventure — I sent the full manuscript to this top literary agent for consideration. Although my writing coach gently suggested that the manuscript wasn’t ready, I didn’t listen because I found her approach far too cautious. Ah, and so it began: the first of many rejections.
The agent was kind and encouraging and even recommended me to a few other agents, which, because I was so naïve in the process, I didn’t recognize this gesture for the incredibly rare gift it was. Although none of it brought me an agent, it did step me into the writing community.
After many rejections that included words of encouragement, I decided to shelve that manuscript and begin a new one. I took my time and worked with a new coach and various editors, honing my skills. Many evenings would find me taking Zoom classes and becoming even more entrenched in the world of writers seeking representation from a literary agent. The only way into major publishing houses is through an agent.
The second book garnered a lot of attention and requests for the full manuscript. Having an agent ask to read your full is a huge accomplishment and instills confidence. I had many of these celebratory moments. The celebrations were relatively quickly followed by encouraging rejections. After, oh, say, 200 or so rejections, I acquiesced that this next novel needed to be shelved. And so began the process of writing my third novel.
I’ll spare the details but let’s just say I was beginning to feel a pattern developing, one I wasn’t all that happy with. One thing I changed was my support system, and joined a writing/critique group. Becoming part of an intimate band of like-minded people made a huge difference in the process and further enhanced my work.
I went on to write two more novels. It was June 2023 when my husband and I drove to Martha’s Vineyard for a wedding. I scrolled through Twitter as we zipped along the Pilgrims Highway and noticed a pitch event. Why not, I thought. With a pitch event, you spit out the premise of your novel in 280 characters and hope to capture an agent’s attention. It is a literal fish-in-a-barrel situation. But I caught something. Things moved quickly, and the agent who liked my pitch requested the full manuscript. A month later, I signed with that agent and have crossed the next-to-impossible line of becoming an agented author.
I’m in the early days, but now my fiction-writing career has stepped into the business side of writing. It is a full-time job to prepare a manuscript to be submitted to editors at publishing houses for consideration. Who knew that writing a novel would be so damn much fun?
As an aside, I’ll be sixty on October 12; perhaps it is my years of life experience that prepared me to be patient and believe in myself.