There’s a saying that everyone has a book in them, but how the heck do you get your big idea out of your head and onto the shelves at Borders? “It has never been easy to become published, but the publishing world is changing,” says Dubai based author, Liz Fenwick. “Almost daily we hear stories of self-published writers making large sums of money, and I believe the key to their success is that they treat writing as a career and not as a hobby.” As Dubai’s Festival of Literature takes place from March 6 - 10 and her debut novel, The Cornish House (out May 24, Dhs 51, amazon.com) is about to be released, here Fenwick reveals her tome-writing tips.
1. WRITE AROUND YOUR DAY.
It saves time. When I began writing fiction seriously in 2004, I only had the school hours available to me, which, with doing everything else that a full-time mother has to do, equalled two hours a day. I’d try and scrape more time by using the waiting period at the school pick up to write a few paragraphs in the car! It took me seven years and six books to get a book deal. My first novel, which sits in a drawer to this day, wasn’t a great work of literature, but it was a complete novel of 50,000 words and it proved to me that I could do it even though it was rejected.
Reading is necessary for every writer. You learn what’s good, bad and what is selling and it’s important to read widely, and not just in your interest area. The works of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen inspired me when I was in my teens; now I love to be transported away by the books of Katie Fforde, Kate Harrison or William Boyd. One of the most important things a writer needs to know when submitting to agents and publishers is where the book fits in the market. If you don’t read widely, you won’t have this answer.
3. WARN YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
This is important. You’ll be away with the fairies or maybe just your characters Jane and Tom. Those close to you will need to be tolerant of the fact you are spending a lot of time with Jane and Tom…
4. DON’T SEND YOUR BOOK OUT TOO SOON.
And under no circumstances send it before you have written the complete book. I was lucky that both publishers and agents saw enough in my early submissions of three chapters and synopsis to ask to see what I’d written next, but I know I tried too soon. How do you know it’s too soon? A fi rst draft is too soon. After the rejection of my fi rst book, that particular publisher didn’t ask to see any more of my work, and I’m not surprised, because although I’d read books they had published, they were not current ones. My writing style didn’t fit with their specifications so I’d recommend that you do your research. The best resource for this is The Artists and Writers Yearbook (Dhs73, amazon.com).
5. LEARN TO LOVE REWRITING AND EDITING.
This is where the real writing begins. Your first draft of a book is like the mass of marble a sculptor begins with… it is the cutting and the shaping of that mass that makes a good book. Embrace this process. It will be the making of your writing; it was for me. The Cornish House was rewritten seven times before an agent took me on. The book before that, which will be my next book out, has been reworked 24 times to date. You need to be open to constructive criticism and have skin thick enough to take the rejections which will come.
6. JOIN A WRITING GROUP FOR FEEDBACK.
And if you can, join a professional organisation; the benefits are huge. After my first novel was rejected, I joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and without their support my journey to publication would have taken much longer.
7. BEWARE OF WRITER’S BOTTOM.
It takes hours sitting on your backside to write 100,000 words. It may also take chocolate to help you through the pain. The combination of the two can cause an expansion where you don’t want it. Remember that going to the beach or focusing on something completely different for 30 minutes has been found by many to break writer’s block…
8. GET SOCIAL.
Twitter is a wonderful place to meet agents and other writers. I have a Twitter list of agents I have collected and I read it daily to find out what’s going on in the publishing world. But never pitch to an agent on Twitter. Always submit in the proper way which will be stated on their website guidelines. But do mention you follow them on Twitter in your covering letter as it will show that you’re doing your research.
9. SHOUT OUT LOUD. In fact one step better, use text to speech software. There’s nothing like a computer generated voice to tell you if the prose on the page is any good. When I read my words on the page I am attached to them, but hearing them gives me the distance to be ruthless and make cuts.
10. BE PATIENT. My journey took seven years and that’s quick. There are writers who had their first book published in no time, but they are the exception, not the rule. Embrace the time to grow as a writer. When things do happen, it can be quick. Last year I volunteered at the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature. This year I’m one of the invited authors. Dreams can come true if you work hard and are professional.
Get advice from Liz at her talk, First Fiction, at the Festival of Literature on March 9 at 3pm, and agent Luigi Bonomi’s session, How To Get Published, at 7.30pm. Log onto eaifl .com