7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Libby Gleeson

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Libby Gleeson, author of MAHTAB’S STORY) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

 

  

Two of Libby Gleeson‘s most recent
juvenile books are Mahtab’s Story
and
Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House



1. The publisher who accepts your first work is not necessarily beginning a lifelong affair.
You may decide the experience is not completely positive and decide to try some other publishing house. You may discover that your book doesn’t sell well and your publisher loses interest in you. Your publisher may be gobbled up by a bigger company that sacks your editor and wants to discard you along with the stock in the warehouse. Don’t take it too personally. It happens to all of us.

2. Publishing a book doesn’t mean the second one will come easily. It won’t. Each book brings its own problems which need unique solutions. There are times in your career where you may decide to change genre or to vary your style. To stay interested in writing, you need to grow and change and try new directions. Believe me, I’m currently struggling with number thirty five and I feel almost as vulnerable as I was with number one.

3. Don’t wait till your book is published until you start the next one. The lag between acceptance and publication is rarely less than twelve months—frequently more. You can waste a lot of time basking in the glow of anticipated publication.

4. Nothing comes easy. The brilliant idea you have had for a story now needs developing and crafting and laboring through many drafts before it will be ready for submission. And then there’s editing.

5. One publisher saying no doesn’t mean they all will. My first novel (Eleanor, Elizabeth, 1984) was rejected by the first publisher it was sent to. They listed five or six points they felt were flaws in the story and its structure. The next publisher who saw it accepted it and when told of the first publisher’s verdict said the points raised were the very strengths they liked about the book.

6. Don’t accept writer’s block. Writing becomes stalled for any one of a number of reasons. Maybe the idea just isn’t strong enough to sustain the kind of story you envisaged. Maybe you can see problems emerging in the story and you don’t want to deal with them. Maybe something else in your life is demanding your time and energy. Find solutions. In my case, a long solitary walk or a time spent reading really good writing often works. There is a power in good prose.

7. Join your professional association. Writing is a solitary pursuit and, at times, you have to deal with complex issues such as contracts, co-authorship and copyright law. You need assistance, and there are writers before your time who have banded together to help you sort out your relationship with your agent and your publisher. How else are you going to work out what exactly the Google Book Settlement means and how you should position yourself?

Kids writer Libby Gleeson lives in New
Zealand and has written more than thirty
books for children, including picture
books and kids novels.

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