The Secret to Becoming a Published Author
I’m going to tell you a secret. Not just any secret. The secret. The secret you’ve been dying to know – the secret to becoming a published author. Now, some people think that published authors spring, fully-formed from their mother’s wombs, signing pen in hand. They start writing as tots, maybe dictate their novels to their nannies until their hands are big enough to span a standard keyboard, and as soon as they can sit for long stretches in front of a computer screen, they’re off to the races. Their fingers fly over the keys and the sentences reel off before them like ticker tape. But, you are not this naive. You know that writing takes practice and diligence and patience. You know that writing sometimes comes in spurts of inspiration, but, more often than not, is pulled out of your marrow with invisible needle-nose pliers. And once you have strung together enough coherent sentences and paragraphs to call your collection of words a manuscript, you’ve worked hard, indeed, at this little pastime of yours. It is only natural to want your manuscript to emerge from its cocoon and become a real live book (complete with book jacket showcasing glowing blurbs and a radiant photo of you, signing pen in hand). You want to become, not just a writer, but a published author. The burning question, of course, is how.
And here’s the answer – don’t stop trying.
Now, I can already hear your sighs and see the look of exasperation on your face. That’s the big secret? Perseverance? You already know that. You wouldn’t have written an entire book if you didn’t have a certain stick-to-itiveness, right? Well, yes and no.
A very famous, well-known agent who I will not name but who frequently speaks to hundreds of hoping-to-be published authors at writing conferences told one crowd that even though most people think he or she is capable of writing a book, only one in ten people will start a book. Of those people, only one will actually finish the book. Of all the people who finish a book, only a few will actually send that book out to an agent or publisher. They will all (okay – very nearly all) get rejected by that first agent or publisher. Of the people who dared to send their book to one agent or publisher and who got rejected, only another handful will send that book out a second time. Most of those people will also get rejected. Of the very few writers who have sent out a book to a second agent or publisher and have been rejected, only one will continue to send that book out to agents and/or publishers or will revise his or her manuscript. That last person is the one who will become a published author.
That last person could easily be you . . . if you don’t stop the process, if you don’t stop trying.
So, now you know the secret. What are you going to do about it?
Debra Brenegan grew up in the Milwaukee area and graduated with a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She worked as a journalist and taught at Milwaukee Area Technical College before beginning her graduate work. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she also taught. She teaches English and Women’s Studies at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. For her fiction, she has received a Ragdale residency and was a recent finalist for the John Gardner Memorial Fiction Prize, The Cincinnati Review’s Schiff Prose Prize, and the Crab Creek Review Fiction Prize. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Calyx, Tampa Review, Natural Bridge, The Laurel Review, RE:AL, The Southern Women’s Review, The Cimarron Review, Milwaukee Magazine, Phoebe, and other publications. Debra Brenegan’s novel, Shame the Devil, is a historical account of nineteenth-century American writer Fanny Fern (SUNY Press, Excelsior Editions). She is currently working on another novel, set in Missouri, and on a short story collection. During the school year, Debra lives in a 130-year-old house in Fulton with her husband, Steve, and their elderly cat. They spend summers and school breaks in their native Milwaukee. When not teaching, writing, spending time with family or driving back and forth to Wisconsin, Debra enjoys cooking, gardening, reading and traveling. You can visit her website at www.debrabrenegan.com or visit her at Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbrenegan or Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/#!/debra.brenegan;https://www.facebook.com/#!/shame.the.devil.book.
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