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Retracing the Steps: What This Rookie Did
by Bryan W. Fields
I recently sold my first work, a childrens
novel, to the only publisher I contacted. When I marveled at the serendipity of
it all, a writer friend reminded me that I had taken "all of the right steps."
While I wont discount beginners luck completely, I believe an analysis of the
steps I took will shed some light on how a novice like me landed a decent first
I joined a writers critique group.
Being required to have something to share every
week forced me to stick to a writing schedule. The comments from other writers,
both positive and negative, provided the instruction and motivation I needed to
I found a mentor.
Our groups "den mother," veteran childrens
author and five-time Newberry nominee Berniece Rabe, was best suited to guide
me. While everyones comments were helpful, I took hers as gospel.
I entered a writing contest.
The first sample chapters of my novel won third
place in its category, which convinced me I was headed in the right
I attended a writers conference.
The Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. sponsors
one of the finest conferences in the Midwest. Through various seminars and
workshops, as well as informal chats, I got to schmooze with an enormous number
of writers, many of them very successful. I took several pages of notes that I
immediately applied to my writing.
I thoroughly researched my first
Berniece gave me the name of an editor whom she
felt would be a good fit for my book. Rather than fire off the manuscript right
away, I went to the web and "Googled" the editor. I found several interviews and
a short biography, as well as references to books she had edited. I had a good
idea of what she was looking for, as well as some hints about her
I spent a lot of time on the cover
Using everything I had learned, I wrote a
one-page cover letter with lots of "white space." I invoked my mentors name,
mentioned my contest award, and gave a VERY BRIEF synopsis of the story, more of
a "back-cover blurb" than a synopsis.
When the manuscript came back some weeks later,
I expected a form rejection. Instead I found a two-page letter of encouragement,
suggesting revisions and inviting me to submit it again. The next step was
definitely a no-brainer:
I took the editors advice
Who was I to argue with an editor at a major
publisher? I went right to work revising my story, following her advice nearly
100%. I spent a month on the revisions and re-submitted the manuscript. Eight
weeks later came the phone call of my dreams!
Im not suggesting that everyone will duplicate
my experience exactly, but Im convinced that taking constructive steps such as
these will increase the chance of acceptance significantly. I will definitely
follow the same steps with my next book!
© Copyright 2005, Bryan W. Fields
Bryan W. Fields is the author of Lunchbox and the Aliens (2006 Henry
Holt and Co,), the story of a basset hound abducted by a pair of clueless aliens.
The sequel, Froonga Planet, is scheduled for release in September of
2008. He is currently working on a third book in the series. Visit his website