I was walking with my kids on the beach when my father-in-law leaned over the balcony to shout, “Your agent’s on the phone! He has a book deal!”
Was that my lucky break as a novelist? Not exactly. Remember Hillary Clinton’s concession speech after losing her presidential bid? She said that, although she hadn’t broken through the glass ceiling, “it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.” Crossing the threshold from unpublished to published author was a similar journey for me: I had to keep pounding on that door until, one crack at a time, it gave way. There was no one lucky break. It was more like a hundred of them.
You, too, can publish your work, if you’re willing to make your own lucky breaks as a writer:
1. Write. Rewrite. Repeat.
Whether you’re intent on traditional or indie publishing, that manuscript had better be polished until it gleams.
2. Find contests to keep you writing—and on deadline.
My first lucky break was a local area arts festival that was running a writing contest. I had just read an essay by Joyce Maynard in Redbook magazine, something about dating after divorce, and I was inspired to write an essay about my own divorce called “My Two Husbands,” revealing how important it was to me that my first husband was still part of my life even after I’d remarried. I entered the essay in that local literary contest and, when it won Honorable Mention, I had the nerve to send it to Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. They bought it, and my career as a magazine writer was launched. My experience as a nonfiction writer allowed me to develop discipline, hone my writing skills and begin building a platform as a writer. And guess what? By the time my first novel was published, my editor at Ladies’ Home Journal had become the books editor. She reviewed the novel in their pages as a “great summer read” and helped boost my book sales—which helped me land a contract for my next novel.