Thursday, 22 September 2011


hello everyone, and welcome to my blog post.
A lot has changed for me over the last few years. Apart from getting married, moving away from my family, my friends and my career, to relocate clear across the continent with my new husband, I also picked up my bow and arrow and aimed for the stars. Okay, so this is a bit of romantic way to describe what I did, but honestly, that’s exactly how it felt and about just as likely to succeed. There I was, nearing the big 6-0 and trying out for yet another career—as an author no less—in an industry renowned for being almost impossible to penetrate.
I remember once hearing that:
Out of one hundred people who want to write a book, only ten percent ever attempt it.
Out of one hundred people who start writing a book, only ten percent finish it.
Out of one hundred who finish it, only ten percent try to find an agent.
And out of one hundred who try to find an agent, only ten percent do.
And out of those, only ten percent get published.
With those odds, who in their right mind would want to try?
Here’s the thing, writing is what I had wanted to do my whole life. I’d even made a brief attempt at it some twenty odd years ago, and abandoned it when my marriage imploded and I found myself financially responsible for my children.  I took a job with a pay check. Can you blame me?
Three years ago, with the last third of my life looming so close, I decided that it was time I pursued my dreams. And here I am with two books published and a three-book deal with Obsidian, an imprint of Penguin. I’m still pinching myself.
For those of you out there who dream of becoming authors, here’s how I did it.
First, I joined a writers group and met with them once a month. I wrote some really bad short stories and listened to many others that weren’t any better. Slowly, I began to find my voice. (No, I’m not talking about a signing voice because trust me, I don’t have one.)I guess I noticed I was beginning to develop one when other members of my group began teasing me about killing off all the men in my stories. I like men, honestly, but I found that I loved creating strong female characters who rose from the ashes and who got even. Then, I researched what was and what wasn’t selling these days, and since I wasn’t attracted to the paranormal, I went for number two on the list, which is women’s fiction, and then I wrote the best damn story I could.
The next thing I did changed my life and launched my career. I attended the San Diego Writers Conference and found an agent. Finding an agent was partly luck and partly good strategizing.
Many conferences offer one-on-one meetings with agents, editors and publishers. I decided to spend the extra fifty bucks and go for it. But before selecting the agent I wanted to meet, I did more research. I Googled every agent on the list to see what kind of books he or she sold and narrowed my selection down to those who specialised in books that appealed to women. Next, I looked at how many clients each agent represented and that’s when I decided that, being a new author, I should chose an agent who was looking to build a roster of writers, rather than trying to impress an already established agent.
Now here’s something that every wannabe author needs to know.  An agent will decide within two seconds whether to give you a chance or to pass on you. How do they do that? Just by reading the first line of your book. That first line, folks, can make you or break you. So make sure it’s a real grabber.
My first line was, “Call it intuition. Call it a sixth sense. Whatever. Somehow I just knew.”
What you need to do is write a first line that will pique a reader’s curiosity and make them want to keep reading.  Mine, quirky as it was, did just that. When I sat down in front of Natalie Fischer of the Bradford Agency, she read it, smiled and said, “I love it.”
Here’s another piece of advice. Know how to summarize your story in no more than a few sentences. Most agents, after reading that first line and liking it, will ask you to tell them the story…in your own words.  Gulp. No preparation, no rehearsal, just spill it out. I must have done a decent job of it because Natalie said, “I want to read it. Can you send it to me?” (I only had the first chapter with me.) Believe me, I drove home in record time and mailed it off the very next day. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not quite. Getting an agent, as it turns out, is only a first step. What follows is the hard part.  
But I think this blog has gone on long enough, don’t you think? The rest will have to wait until another day. Till then, everyone. And in the meantime, keep reading and writing. And if you haven’t already signed up for my newsletters, do it now.