Top Ten Tips To Help You Tell Your Story and Get Published
From Dream to Reality
If you love writing, have aspirations to pen your first novel and want to get your words read then you’ve probably spent hours imagining the day the agent or publisher calls and offers you that six-figure book deal. Am I right?
Sometimes the journey to publication looks nothing like you dreamed it would. Sometimes it takes unexpected twists and turns, has you riding high then tosses you into some pretty deep lows. So, how do you learn to embrace the journey, push through page after page and trust that your words will eventually reach their audience? Well I can tell you from experience that it isn’t always easy but it IS always possible.
Like many people, I harboured a dream of writing a novel. However, my work and life as a busy wife and mum of four had taken over. Having spent many years writing for corporate audiences I no longer knew how to write for myself, had lost touch with my creativity and needed to rediscover my love for prose. So, in 2012 I set myself a 30-day writing challenge, entered writing competitions and blogged about my experience.
Finding Myself as a Writer
As a direct result of that experience I discovered I had a talent and passion for poetry and after some time hanging out in online poetry communities I sat down and poured out my first poetry collection. I made several attempts to start a novel at the same time, but I just couldn’t find the words and hated everything I wrote.
Pretty soon I came to realise that I was not going to be able to write a work of fiction until I had purged myself of the personal story I needed to tell. And so, poetry became my outlet. There were a couple of contemporary poets whose work I had grown to admire, and so when their publisher opened for submissions I sent off my manuscript – and it was rejected. I was devastated and also a tiny bit furious! I had to do something about it. And so, I went off and consulted with several other poets I had made connections with, got some valuable feedback then reworked and resubmitted it. Within a few days I heard back from the publisher. They loved it. A few months later in early 2013 ‘Melodies of my Other Life’ was published.
Sounds easy right? If only! When it came to writing my novel The Doctor’s Daughter, I hit more obstacles. Despite great feedback from beta readers, lots of interest from literary agents and one or two publishers I found that over the space of a few months the rejection emails started to drop into my inbox. ‘We love your story but we just don’t think it’s right for us.’
Again I was devastated. I had been so sure this was my time. And again I was a tiny bit furious. At that point I had a choice. Put the manuscript in a drawer and walk away from my dream of publication or find another way. Most of us write because we want to be heard. Our goal is to have our story, talent, idea validated. Any money is usually secondary. Once I realised that I didn’t need a publishing deal in order to have my story validated there was no stopping me. I researched my options and in June 2015 I self-published The Doctor’s Daughter. After that I set the promotional ball rolling by contacting book bloggers, organising press reviews, reaching out to local book stores and libraries and offering to give talks at literary events. Pretty soon the blogger reviews were coming in and my book was selling – and still does more than a year later. Having been both traditionally published and self-published I can tell you that the process and outcome has been pretty similar. And I’ve learned a lot about writing and publishing along the way.
Here are some top tips to help you tell your story:
- Define what success means to you. Whether you’re aiming for a six figure book deal or plan to self-publish, identify your goal then break down the steps you need to reach it. After that, just keep writing.
- Believe in your project 100%. I must have redrafted The Doctor’s Daughter around 20 times before I was happy with it. It takes motivation and tenacity to keep chipping away at a story you’ve been working on for months but I kept going because I believed in my story.
- Push past your insecurities. Lots of writers doubt their abilities, throw draft after draft in the bin or simply never get started because they fear what people will think. I have struggled to silence my inner critic for years, but I realised that I had to share my work with readers and other writers. It’s the only way to learn and grow.
- Develop a regular writing practice. Set aside some uninterrupted time to focus on writing. You don’t have to write pages and pages. Just get into the habit of writing every day. It’s a very competitive market. The more you hone your craft the more likely you are to end up with publishable pieces.
- Do your research. Once I had the bones of my story written down, I spent a lot of time researching 1920s Vienna so I could create authentic scenes. My story is largely driven by character, but readers tell me they also appreciate the historical accuracy of my novel.
- Seek professional help! Make use of the professional organisations offering writing resources. The Doctor’s Daughter grew from my time at Arvon Foundation. I used Goodreads to find beta readers. My manuscript was assessed by The Literary Consultancy. I responded to literary agent Twitter hashtags and talent scouting initiatives such as ‘Discovery Days’ to pitch my novel. All were invaluable in helping me achieve publication.
- Accept change. Friends, beta readers, literary agents and editors will all give you feedback. Whilst you don’t want to lose sight of your story, you will inevitably need to make changes during the editing and redrafting process. Go with it.
- Ditch perfection. Don’t get too hung up on forming the perfect sentence or crafting the best dialogue at first. Get it down as quickly as you can. Once you have a completed manuscript you have something to edit, redraft and polish. Agonise over the first few pages and you will run out of the enthusiasm and focus you need to finish it at all.
- Expect to hit a wall. I faltered at around 30,000 words. It’s normal to face writer’s block at times. Don’t panic. Talk it through and brainstorm ideas if you need to. I did, and before I knew it I had reached the end of my manuscript.
- Get started. Take a few minutes to sketch out some plot notes or if you have time on your hands, draft that opening chapter. Whatever you can fit in, it’s time to do make a start. Yes, right now. Go!
–Vanessa Matthews from The Housewife Revolution.
Vanessa Matthews is a Mindset, Business & Life Coach, author, speaker and founder of The Housewife Revolution. She coaches writers, female entrepreneurs and women who are ready to rediscover their purpose, find fulfillment and live their best lives.
P.S. Girl crush party of one! If you think Vanessa is amazing–like I do–check her out at The Housewife Revolution, and make sure to order her book on Amazon; it is a page-turner!