When I first tried to publish a novel, about eight years ago, I knew nothing. I bought the Guide to Literary Agents, learned how to write a query letter (albeit a boring one), and spent a lot on postage. Remarkably, I got a lot of partial requests and at least one full request despite my ignorance. Of course, I had no idea what those things meant. I had no idea how close I'd actually come. I did not know how rare a request for the full manuscript of a new writer could actually be. I was horribly disappointed by the eventual rejections and put away writing for three years.
Inevitably, the bug bit again. A writer can't simply stop writing. A writer is driven to write. Even though I was determined not to, I caught myself doing it rather often, and sure enough, when I decided to get serious again, I already had seventy-five percent of my next novel written in journals and notebooks. That became Assassin's Nightmare. But, what could I do differently this time that I didn't do the first time around?
The answer came through a series of coincidences and fortunate events, beginning with a fan letter I wrote to an author I greatly admired. (Hey Linnea!) We went back and forth with emails, met in person at several conferences, and she offered extremely valuable advice. Once she'd heard my tale of the first manuscript, she explained how close I'd actually come and said one very important word -- Networking. I don't remember exactly how she put it, but the gist of it was, if you want to be a published author, you need to run with the "big guys and gals." You need to attend conferences, pitch agents in person, get over your innate shyness (yep, I used to be really shy in new groups of people). You need to follow the blogs of agents, editors, and authors. Learn from them.
I owe a tremendous amount to her, and all those I've connected with since. No, I am not yet published. But I'm closer than ever before. I can feel it. I know it. And I've had the most amazing experiences in the past year. I've traveled to conventions in distant states. I've attended (and voted in) the Hugo awards. I've sat down for coffee, lunch, dinner with some of the authors I only dreamed of meeting a year ago - people whom I've admired my entire adult life. Some even treated us! (Thanks Ann!) And I've learned so much about writing.
I've gained tremendous confidence in social situations. That's so crucial to this networking. I can pitch an agent without trembling. (At least not in front of the agent.) I can walk up to an author or agent and introduce myself and carry on an intelligent conversation without babbling or fawning all over them. Granted, I wasn't really given to that behavior before, but I would simply hold back and observe/listen, rather than having my opinion heard or contributing to the conversation. I would wait for people to introduce themselves to me instead of taking the initiative. In this world, one must take that initiative.
And last, I've made friends. I've found kindred spirits in all this (Linnea, Stacey, Ann, Jodi, and many more). We chat online, we trade tales of woe, we play Scrabble, and when we're in the same town, we get together. If nothing else comes of this, I've met some incredible people.