Friday, November 12, 2010

Publishing that First Novel

Publishing your first novel is like having a baby. It is very very hard. Of course the first novel is an experiment and you have no idea what you are doing. Apologies to all those writers who knew what they were doing because I did  not. I had just graduated college and decided against the advice of parents and friends to take a summer and write a novel. Now I had a Masters in History and a minor in English and I did like to read and I had published a few editorials in the college newspaper. But after that it was all uncharted territory.

So I sat down and began pecking away. I had just learned to type so I thought if I could just write five pages a day I would hit my goal of three hundred and fifty pages by the end of the summer. I had nothing to write about except my youth and so I wrote down things that had happened to me and hastily constructed a diary of my life. By summers end I had my three hundred and fifty pages and gave it to a friend of mine who said it read like a diary. Armed with his critique I moved in with my parents and started sending out the manuscript. Rejection letters rained down.

Meanwhile I began a process of rewriting. Again, I had no idea what I was doing but as I stumbled from apartment to apartment I carried the manuscript along. Years passed and the rejection letters grew friendlier but there were  no takers for a man with a first novel. Five years passed and my novel, (Ripples) still had not found a home. I was probably on my twentieth rewrite and I began to despair that my nights after my sales job were not bearing fruity as I sat and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote.  I had already covered two of my walls with the proverbial rejection letters in my apartment.

I went up on a camping trip up in Michigan and was standing around a camp fire with a friend of my wife who said to me, I hear you are a writer. I muttered something about yes I was a writer. I hear you wrote a novel he continued. I'm a printer, I should publish your book. Magic words. Years of rejection came down to his wife who read my manuscript and liked it. The man published my book a year later, his first book and my first novel. Three years later Bantam bought the rights. That's how I published my first novel.
Rocket Man is due out in January

Books by William Hazelgrove