Sometimes I wonder if being self-published really qualifies me as a writer. But I know Pat Bertram's a real writer, and I love her first two books, More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire. Pat's third book, Daughter am I, has just been released by Second Wind Publishing and it's high on my Christmas List - maybe after you read this it'll be high on yours too. I'm truly honored to have Pat posting to my blog today, and truly inspired by the piece she's written. Thank you Pat.
When I asked Sheila what topic she’d like me to talk about, she said she’d like to read how I got from where I was before to where I am now, and what advice I would give those dreaming of following. So here is the travelogue of that journey.
Daughter Am I is about a quest, so it’s fitting that during a blog tour to promote the book I should talk about my personal quest as a writer. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. Oh, wait. That’s the first line of David Copperfield! Every quest needs a hero, though, and it’s still to be determined if I will be the hero of mine. I am far from where I want to be, yet I am also aware of how far I have come. Eight years ago, I started out with nothing but time and a desire to get the past out of my head, so I wrote a fictionalized version of my life’s defining moments. Ghastly? Oh, yes! But I did complete the novel, which gave me a bit of satisfaction.
For my second novel, I decided to be clever and compile all the genres into one -- a horror/western/mystery/suspense/thriller/romance/historical/science fiction/ novel. By then I had decided that if I was going to write, I should learn the craft. I’m not being modest when I say I have no innate talent for writing, though I do have a talent for learning, so I set out to learn everything I could about writing. (Here is my first bit of advice -- to learn how to write, you need to learn how to write. It sounds silly, but it’s true.) The very first thing I learned is that neophyte writers often make the mistake of thinking they were being clever by combining all genres into one. Ouch. A painful lesson, though one I haven’t really learned. Most of my books cross genres, though not quite the way I had originally intended.
This second novel eventually became Light Bringer, which was the fourth one I completed, and which will be published in the spring of 2010. I worked on Light Bringer for a bit, then I got the idea for More Deaths Than One, and that story so captured my imagination that I immediately sat down and started writing it. I thought the finished product was great. Wonderful writing. Perfect images. Engaging characters. I even got an agent for it, which says more about the ineptitude of the agent than the worth of the book.
When More Deaths Than One didn’t sell, I reread it to prove to myself that the editors who turned down the book didn’t know a good book when they saw one. Boy, did I have a shock! The thing was dreadful. One character (William Henry Harrison, who eventually became an off-screen -- or rather off-page -- character) told the story to the main character, so it was mostly written in the second person. Eek. And my hero Bob did nothing. He wasn’t even in his own story. So I rewrote the book. Several months later, when the revised book had racked up more rejections, I read it again. Another shock. Still dreadful! It took four major overhauls, fifty books on how to write and self-edit, another novel (while all this was going on, I wrote A Spark of Heavenly Fire), and dozens of edits and copyedits before I finally ended up with a readable book. (Here is my second bit of advice -- when a book is rejected, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the agent or editor is a fool. Perhaps the book isn’t nearly as good as you think it is. Set it aside for weeks, months, even a year, and continue writing and learning how to write. Then look at again and try to assess it honestly.)
I could continue to bore you with the minutiae of my journey, but the point is that I did learn how to write, and you can too. Talent helps, but is not necessary. What is necessary is to learn the craft, to be honest in your self-assessment, and to be willing to rewrite as often as it takes to make the finished product match your vision.
I endured over two hundred rejections during my journey, but what made it worthwhile was finding a publisher who loves my books.
As for the second half of my journey -- finding that publisher -- well, let’s just say it was a matter of persistence. By then I had written four books that I knew were worth reading, so I explored every single possibility. I studied Writer’s Marketplace and Jeff Herman’s directories. I searched agent databases on the Internet. In the end, finding Second Wind was a fluke. I happened to come across a link to their website on a discussion thread, and immediately shot off a query letter. So, here is my final piece of advice -- follow through on every lead that you get. You never know where success will come from.
Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.