Saturday, January 2, 2010

Polish, focus and research helped open the door.(Breakthrough).

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The road to the publication of my first novel, Lily in Bloom, literally began undercover. By flashlight I devoured Nancy Drew mysteries as fast as "Carolyn Keene" could write them. This was approximately 50 years ago. Are you wondering what took me so long?

Well, I lacked the time. And the talent. I have never taken rejection well. And the muse had it in for me, which resulted in chronic writer's block. I knew that getting something published would put me on the highway to success, but what if I was asked to make drastic changes to my masterpiece? I'd heard the horror stories.

Finally, the muse looked my way. I was amazed to find that her name was not inspiration but realization. Blaming her was getting me nowhere. I would never have hours of leisure time to while away writing. And the talent part? So what if I wasn't going to be the next great Southern author? I still loved to write, right?

And so I wrote--short stories that I fired off to lofty literary magazines. Form rejections raced in.

I went back to cursing the muse for a while, then lowered my sights and took some continuing-education courses on fiction writing, subscribed to The Writer, and started entering contests.


In the fall of 2004, it happened. I won cash prizes in two contests. Two anthologies accepted my stories for publication. I was on my way.

But sadly, it was to a dead end. After my little burst of success, I couldn't give away a story. What happened? Was I just spinning my wheels? Or worse, was I totally out of gas? Was I killing myself with overused metaphors?

What I learned

It was time for a detour (OK, that's the last one). I saw a request for stories from the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Over the next year or so I sold six stories to them and even went on TV a few times to promote the books. My credits and experience grew.

I served on literary committees. I stopped sending my stuff to literary journals and really researched the market. I spent hours refining my query letter. I finished Lily in Bloom and began sending it off with a very polished synopsis, if I say so myself. Things began to inch forward again.

Now that I had my new and improved query letter and synopsis, I could feel an increase in respect coming from between the lines of the ever-more-personal rejections. I received requests for partial and even full manuscripts. I was asked to make my perfect little novel longer. Then shorter. It hurt, but I did it. Finally Black Lyon Publishing offered me a contract and Lily in Bloom was published in mid-2008.


First of all, if there is a muse, it is you, the writer. Inspire yourself by reading what you love and writing whatever comes to mind.

Writer's block is simply another name for a lack of self-discipline. Or a refusal to make that detour when those darlings you have written just don't work. Or something else that you, the muse, can overcome.

In every profession there are geniuses who make it look easy. But even they got where they are through hard work and practice. And remember, you don't have to be Tiger Woods to enjoy golf.

Anyone who has a life (and therefore something to write about) doesn't have the time to write or paint or practice golf putts. They make the time.

If you can learn from it, that old fact of life, rejection, eventually leads to acceptance.

If you even think you might like to be a writer, don't let self-doubt or time constraints cause you to wait until middle age to start really working at it. I sure wish I hadn't.

On the other hand, if you're older and just getting started, tell yourself "Better late than never" and get going.

Write what you know. Write what you love. Create characters that you find interesting and then see where they take you. To me, this is the most fun about writing.

Well, actually it's second, after getting published.

Margaret P. Cunningham's first novel, Lily in Bloom, won the 2008 Golden Rose Award for Best Contemporary Romance. Her short stories have won several national contests and appeared in magazines and anthologies.

Source Citation
Cunningham, Margaret P. "Polish, focus and research helped open the door." The Writer Jan. 2010: 14. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Jan. 2010. .

Gale Document Number:A213601174

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