Last week I packed my bags and headed over to Adelaide for six days to attend a Commercial Fiction Masterclass, run by highly acclaimed Australian author, Fiona McIntosh.
Now, Fiona knows a thing or two about publishing commercial fiction in Australia, having published 35 books.
As an aspiring novelist myself, I have read her book How To Write Your Blockbuster, several times. As a result, I booked myself into her September 2017 Masterclass. I had to wait more than 12 months to attend (they are usually booked up a year in advance!), so when the time finally came, I was more than ready to attend.
So…how to get published?
What I learned over the five-day course was so valuable, and worth every cent that I paid. While I can’t share with you exactly what we did learn — because what happens in Masterclass stays in Masterclass — I can share with you some valuable lessons that I learned, when it comes to developing your creative writing.
Get a professional to look at your work
Whether you choose to work with Fiona or not, if you want to get published get a professional to look over your work to give you honest feedback and some constructive advice. However, let me stress that if you’re writing for the commercial market, you must get someone familiar with the market to critique it. There’s no point getting an English professor, or a writing lecturer to look at it, if they are not established as authors themselves. Sadly, a number of participants had been given ‘advice’ by people who had no authority or knowledge, to do so, and had been given a bum steer.
Don’t take things personally
If you receive negative feedback on your work, don’t get upset. Be grateful that someone has taken the time to read your work. We were all so fortunate that Fiona took the time to read our first opening 10 pages, write a report, and then sit down one-on-one with us to discuss our book. You may have to swallow your pride and admit you’ve got it wrong, but far better to do that, and get on the right path, instead of continuing to work on something that will never be published.
Talk with other writers who ‘get it’
I can’t tell you how valuable it was to talk to other writers on a similar path to me. We were all writing different stories, in different genres, but that didn’t matter at all. Writing a novel can be a lonely business, so if you come across a fellow-novelist, embrace them with both arms and don’t let them go. During our time together, we discussed characters in our book, as if they were real people. We discussed their quirks, and their decisions — and not once did anyone look at me as if I were mad for delving into the world of this imaginary person. And now, we’re all friends for life as well as a fabulous support network for each other. You can be sure we’ll be buying each other’s books when we get published.
Writing a book is extremely brave. There’s no guarantee you’ll be published, and so you face the very real possibility of pouring your heart and soul into a story, only to receive rejection after rejection. That’s not an easy path to tread. Opening yourself up to criticism when you let someone else read your work is also a difficult, but necessary thing. What’s even more scary, is to read your work in front of a group of strangers. We did that more than once, our stories evoking emotions we hadn’t felt for years. But it will lead to such growth in you as a person and in your writing, that those few brief moments of terror are well and truly worth it.
The publishing industry is a slow-moving beast. The number of steps required from the time you first put pen to paper, to when you see your book on the shelf is overwhelming. It may even cause you to think twice about following your dream — because after all there are no guarantees. Even if you fully believe in your story, it can be tempting to rush through your manuscript in a bid to hurry the process along, and get published a little bit quicker. However, the advice we received is to take your time. Be patient and make sure everything you write is your very best. Don’t try to cut corners, or rush through it. Usually, that leads to rejection. Take the time necessary to do what you want to do. It may take as long as two years to write your story, and be published. But once you’ve achieved that, you probably won’t care much about the time it took.
If there’s one thing I learned, it’s the importance of believing in your story, in your writing, and your ability that you can do it. To sell you manuscript as an unknown in the industry is incredibly hard. You need to know what your story is about, where is sits on the market, and sell it to a publisher. You need to convince them that they can’t do without your book. If you don’t believe in yourself and your story, no publisher will either. One of the things we did during Masterclass was pitch our novel to a real publisher. It was the most inspiring, exciting, yet terrifying thing. But when I did it, I could see the publisher believed in my story — which made me believe even more. A very valuable gift.
Finally, you need to commit. You must write regularly no matter what. You must make your writing a priority — not the most important thing in your life — but you must value it enough to get your story written. Make regular time in your week to do it, and stick to your plan. Work out your word count per session and ensure you meet it every time. And once your manuscript is done, commit to editing it properly, before submitting it to a publisher for consideration.
Even following the above, will still not guarantee that you’ll be published. But it will certainly set you on the right path.
As for me, it’s off to begin my second draft of my manuscript — I’ve got a book to publish!
If you’d like to follow me on this daunting, yet exciting journey to being published, join me on my FB page.
NOTE: For further information about Fiona McIntosh’s Masterclass, visit her website.