Strangely enough, I wrote my second published novel, “Dancing to an Irish Reel” years before I wrote my first published book, “A Portal in Time.” My first written novel (which I call to this day “my Irish book”) was a labor of love inspired by the year I spent living on the western coast of Ireland, and the story took up residency in my soul, begging to be shared. Its road to publication was not a predictable one, but it taught me invaluable lessons concerning unwavering belief, the power of tenacity, and the willingness to learn and grow as a writer.
I’ve heard it said writers don’t write because they want to; they write because they must. That’s how I felt about my Irish book, and although I’d never attempted a novel, I was not deterred because I had so much enthusiasm for telling this particular story. I embarked upon the writing of the book with blind faith, thinking all I had to do was tell the story of a single American female who relocates to rural Ireland, and the mere novelty of the setting in this heart-and-soul, fish-out-of-water story would pave the way to certain publication. It didn’t occur to me that my first draft would be one of many, that my book had to be painstakingly crafted, or that the endless process of fine-tuning by rewrites is where the real work would lie.
Once I’d finished the first draft of my Irish book, I sent it to three friends who know their way around literature. To say their combined comments were legion would be an understatement, yet I was encouraged because all three loved the story. I took their suggestions into consideration while I fine-tuned the book then I went over my manuscript three times more until I was satisfied it was in its best shape possible. Next I reviewed the tips in “The Writer’s Market” that pertain to writing a query letter to a literary agent. I composed an introductory letter and over a six month period, I followed submission guidelines and wrote to ten agents hoping for the next step: a request for the entire manuscript. I waited on pins and needles only to receive incremental responses succinctly saying my manuscript didn’t “fit their list.” But with each rejection, I sent out another round of query letters, and eventually found myself in a cycle of protracted waiting, which stretched out for more than a year.
While I waited, I continued to write. I revised my manuscript once again and researched other authors’ road to publication, where I realized they all had one thing in common: they’d each come to the table with a body of work to recommend them. Spurred into action, I began submitting personal essays to magazines that accepted unsolicited material, and began to rack up publications. Next, what I can only describe as an unusual chain of events brought me to the attention of my hometown’s newspaper, where I was offered my own creative weekly column, entitled, “In First Person,” which amassed a local following. At the time I was encouraged by the good things in play, but I still hadn’t found a literary agent. Then it occurred to me that two irons in the fire were better than one.
I took a reprieve from my Irish book and tried my hand at writing another book in a different genre. My aim was to enjoy the process and write the story I would like to read. The result was my paranormal mystery entitled, “A Portal in Time.” When I was satisfied with the manuscript, I researched publishers who accepted un-agented material, with an eye towards those who published similar titles. The rest, I can gratefully say, is part of my career history, for “A Portal in Time” was published by Vinspire Publishing in November of 2013.
When I mentioned my willingness to grow as a writer, it was to say that my work didn’t end with the acceptance of my novel. I went through two rounds with an editor followed by a proof reader. The process was a crash course tutorial in how to shape a book, and once “A Portal in Time” was released, I took everything I’d learned from the process and went back to my Irish book.
Eight months later, I submitted the manuscript of my Irish book to my publisher, knowing there’d be no guarantee. But fate can be kind, and at the recommendation of my publisher’s acquisitions department, I was offered a contract for “Dancing to an Irish Reel.”
It occurs to me now that my first book took an unusual course to publication, but in hindsight, many elements had to align. Summarily, it wasn’t enough to know I had a good story; I had to have enough faith in the book to wait through its many revisions. But first and foremost, I had to be willing to learn and grow as a writer.