Lockdown has offered many frustrated writers a key to breaking free from daily routines and a chance to work on the novel or non-fiction work that has been gathering dust in their minds or in a bottom drawer for years. If 2022 is the year you take your book to the next stage – we asked authors and publishing professionals for their advice on how to make it happen.
Donal Ryan – novelist and literary fiction educator
Donal Ryan, multi-award winning author of The Spinning Heart and Strange Flowers and lecturer of creative writing at the University of Limerick, understands the pain of rejection when it comes to spreading the written word. “The life of writing is scattered and inspiring with rejection. It never ends. Your work will be precious to you but you cannot expect others to treat it that way. People will say ‘No.’” No. Get out. I call security. “
However, he believes that this is basically the path of a true writer. “You are bound to be rejected, many times [times] And out of control, or sometimes thoughtfully and constructively. And when you are finally accepted, the rejection will start again, in different and more debilitating ways. But always remember to get back to the fun of making a good sentence. Take care of your beauty and everything else in your writing life will take care of itself.”
The opening page of your manuscript is important, and Ryan believes it’s one of the first opportunities to present the entire novel. “Try to make something happen in your editorial that you think has never happened anywhere in fiction before. John Harding opened his version of What We Did On Our Vacation with the exclamation point “toilet!” That was a bold move, and it worked beautifully.”
Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin – novelist and crime fiction teacher
Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, writer and author of novels such as Little Bones and The Dark Room (under the pseudonym Sam Blake), is also the author and writing coordinator. Veteran Irish writers.
When it comes to mastering the written word, Fox O’Loughlin says, “The best advice I’ve ever received was from Sarah Webb, just keep writing—you get better with every word you write, so keep it up.”
Once that’s sorted, the next stage is getting ready for the publishing world. “Agents ask for submissions that work for them, and they are all different, so follow their instructions. Put as much effort into your submission as you did in your novel.”
When it comes to self-publishing, Fox O’Loughlin says there are “opportunities for authors to connect with readers, digitally or in print, that didn’t exist twenty years ago.”
Rachel Pierce – Eagle Eye Editor
Rachel Pierce is the invisible hand who worked on many of Ireland’s great books before they left the publishing house, and exercises her sharp eye for rhythm, character, speed and detail in every aspect of the book – from overall structure to line editing. Working with talented writers such as Paul Howard (aka Ross O’Carroll-Kelly) and Sinéad Moriarty, she is also a successful author in her own right.
When starting out with a novel, you think the perfect first draft doesn’t exist at all. “There’s no pressure to create a beautiful first draft—it’s about intuition, fun, and the tightly sealed writing: you and the page. You feel like you’re on your way into the story; being surprised by the characters and the plot; knowing the story and who the characters are. For now, just write — let it go.”
Simon Trewin – Agent
Simon Trewin, UK-based literary agent for authors such as John Boyne, Sam Blake, Mary Costello and Andrew Miller, summarizes his advice in four tips:
1 take your time. The world is not waiting for your novel, so make sure you are happy to be judged by everything you send. Every draft will be better.
2 Do your research. Check potential agents on their websites and make sure you are a good fit for their list.
3 be patient. Don’t expect an overnight response from the dealers, so be sure to send your work to three or four at a time to post your bets.
4 Keep smiling. You are the best person in the world to write your book.
Connor Nagel – Publisher
HarperCollins Ireland is headed by Connor Nagel, and as such, he is the custodian of the last phase of the deployment. He says Ireland is unique in that you don’t have to have a literary agent to print your book.
“If you take us, at HarperCollins Ireland, we have an open submission policy, which is very important to us. We want our acquisition to be as open and democratic as possible. Our strike rate is low enough, but still a great source of ideas” such as the unexpected success of story sets The shorts for Blindboy and the Aisling series – two “counter-intuitive” examples.
He, too, believes that rejection is part of the publishing journey: “It’s just that the book doesn’t suit them. The rejection letter isn’t coded for anything else.”