AuthorsGetLit is a series on This is Lit that will focus on tips for authors, self-published or otherwise, from both bloggers and other authors.
Any published author would tell you that just writing a novel isn’t enough. Before your book can reach readers, an agent needs to pick it up. You need to find a company that’ll be willing to publish your book. If traditional publishing doesn’t work, you need to consider self-publishing and that comes with its own set of hurdles.
From J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter being rejected by 12 publishing houses to Stephen King’s wife fishing Carrie out of the garbage because she believed he could be an author, I’m a sucker for author perseverance stories.
That’s why Erika Raskin’s moving Acknowledgements in her medical thriller Best Intentions got me. I had just finished reading her all-round amazing, fast-paced, and suspenseful novel and her Acknowledgements included a line about the protracted effort that went into writing this shoo-in for a 5-star review.
After I started AuthorsGetLit, I had to ask her to write about all the effort that went into getting Best Intentions published, for others to be inspired from.
Over to Erika.
I worked on Best Intentions for a very (very) long time, toggling between two contradictory beliefs as I revised.
On the one hand I thought that if I listened to the workshop leaders, agents and editors who offered encouragement and advice (‘Put the dead body on the first page,’ ‘Change the telling from third person to first’ — both great suggestions) I would eventually get my novel published.
On the other, I suspected that I was voluntarily undertaking an exercise in masochism, and my boulder of a manuscript would keep rolling back downhill. Flattening me ad infinitum.
This particular dueling dictum (‘Try until you succeed’ vs. ‘Insanity is repeating the same behavior expecting different results’) played in my head not for years but for decades.
I started the medical thriller when my exhausted husband was doing his residency in anesthesia and I was home with our small children. Sometimes I’d get on such a writing roll during their afternoon naps that rest-hour would bleed straight into (mandatory) TV time. I wanted/needed to shine a backlight on things that I’d witnessed and heard about in the world of health care (both as a doctor’s wife and the mother of a child with a chronic illness.) There were institutional problems that I worried were calcifying to the point of showing up on x-ray. And I wanted to share the worry.
I finished it and got an agent.
And a stack of rejections.
I put the hard copy in a drawer and moved on. (Kinda.)
A few years later I pulled it back out. The story (a medical cautionary tale) was still very relevant. So I started at the beginning and refined. (Fashions had gone out of fashion, as had names. Answering machines no longer sat on tables but were inside phones and my protagonist needed to trade in her station wagon for an SUV.) But the plot of Best Intentions remained the same. As did the cast, most of whom I really liked.
I resumed the publication/revision dance. (More times than I care to remember.)
Time passed. I wrote other things. My husband is now one of the deans of a med school overseeing medical students. We are grandparents. A couple of years ago, right after my novel Close came out, I reopened the file for Best Intentions and started at the beginning.
And this time it worked.
About the author
(In short, she joined the family business.)
Erika has written essays for print and radio, articles and short stories. Her fiction has been recognized by the Reynolds Price competition, Glimmertrain, and the Virginia Commission on the Arts. She was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Erika’s first novel, CLOSE, was published by Harvard Square Editions in October of 2014. CLOSE was a finalist in the USA Best Book Awards.
Erika and her husband Keith have three (grown-up) offspring and a peculiar dog with a fondness for lingerie. They live in the mountains outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Sneak peak into next week: Jaq Hazell, whose books have won the Rubery Book Award – Book of the Year 2017, Carousel Aware Prize – Best Young Adult Book 2017, and been included in The Telegraph’s Best Crime Fiction of 2015 and shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction, gives aspiring authors a self-publishing checklist.
Are you an author with a WIP? Do you want writing and publishing tips from published authors? Stay tuned to AuthorsGetLit! Posts go up every Sunday.