Monday, September 21, 2009

Five things I wish I knew before I got the call!

With the announcement of her first major sale, Nicole Murphy shares the excitement and the trepidation.

After nine years, more than a dozen novels written and ten drafts of the first novel of this trilogy, I’ve finally achieved my teenage dream and I’m going to be a published novelist. Yay!

My fantasy romance trilogy Balance of Power will be published by HarperCollins under the Voyager imprint here in Australia and New Zealand, with book one Love in Control to hit the shelves in July next year.

The lovely, talented and generous Rowena Cory Daniells asked me to write a piece for you readers of Ripping Ozzie Reads about the experience, and after much thought and consideration, I’ve decided to go with five things I wish I’d known before I got that fateful email on July 3. Oh, and one thing I’m glad I already did do.

1. I wish I’d known about all the extra things I needed to pass acquisitions, such as a synopsis of the trilogy and a biography. Honestly. It was probably stupid of me, but all I had written was the synopsis of the first book. Sure, I knew what happened in the other two books, but I didn’t have it written down in any form that would be suitable for convincing a publisher to take on all three books. Thank goodness I had fabulous friends that were able to read and critique it quickly. As for the biography… If you’re like me and you hate writing about yourself, tackle this one first, get it done and save it somewhere. Then you just need to update it from time to time.

2. I wish I’d known I needed an ABN. Get one, right now. It costs (I think about $127), but it’s easily done on the internet (if you don’t already have an accountant who can do it for you) and it means that you can get paid. An important step, I think. And it means you can sign off on the offer when you get it, instead of having to wait.

3. I wish I’d known how much my life would change. Well yes, I knew, but I didn’t really KNOW. The pressure that comes with working two jobs, and trying to keep on top of things like family, friends, housework (eek!) can be overwhelming. In the first two months of being a professional writer, I had just one full weekend off, and another three full days. Otherwise, I was working the day job, or writing. That takes a toll on you, your family, your relationships, the housework (eek!).

4. I wish someone had told me how emotional the whole thing was. I was intellectually prepared – I had studied the industry, educated myself on the possibilities, knew what would happen. But I wasn’t emotionally prepared, and the fact that suddenly the dream of more than 25 years could be coming true hit me like a Mack truck. I vacillated between terrified, overjoyed, unsure and overconfident for a couple of weeks before I realised I didn’t have time for it and pulled myself together.

5. I wish I’d known this was going to happen. Seriously, I wish someone had contacted me and said “just had a squiz in the crystal ball and you know what? You’re going to sell the trilogy in July”. Cause then I could have PREPARED myself. But the thing is, you don’t know. Whether you approach publishers yourself (like I did) or go through an agent, you’ll never know just when you’ll get the email/phone call saying “Guess what…” So work on getting ready right now.

And the one thing I’m glad I did? Early last year, I left my job in journalism and had to make a decision – find another full-time job, probably in the public service that probably utilised my writing and publishing skills and would probably hinder my fiction as much as journalism did; or to get a part-time job in an industry far removed from writing, so I could focus on my fiction in my spare time.

I chose the later, got a job at a local supermarket, and started to discipline myself to write every day that I could – mostly mornings, either of days I had off or before going in for a late shift. And this habit meant that when I sold the trilogy and was suddenly facing deadlines, I was already working hard on my writing and had organised my time to do it.

Not everyone can take my route and go to work part-time to focus on their writing (thanks to my husband), but it’s important to organise your time and start working as if you are a professional now, cause as I said earlier you really don’t know when you’ll need to and finding time to work is something you don’t want to deal with on top of everything else.

So, that’s what I’ve realised so far. But I’m just taking the first steps into my professional writing career, and no doubt I’ll make many more mistakes with which to enlighten you all. Keep writing, keep learning, keep improving, and this could be you!

Are you prepared for your major sale?


Cat Sparks said...

I have a bunch of detailed synopses and an ABN... and a part time job and a regular writing schedule...

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Sounds like all you're waiting on is the call. grin

Good luck, Cat.

Honestly, it is scary when you think of people dissecting your 'baby'. No matter how you try to arm yourself against bad reviews, they still hurt.

Satima Flavell said...

Sounds like a roler-coaster ride, emotionally! I do hope it's the start of a long and productive writing career.

And thanks for the tip - I'm off to write a synop of my trilogy!

Sean Williams said...

Days off? I remember them... :-)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Satima, I hate trying to to write a synopsis of 3 books!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Sean, I thought if you did something you loved for a living, you never had to work a day in your life!

deborahb said...

WoooHOOOO! Love to hear your learnings, Nicole. :) And congratulations.

Nicole said...

Thanks for the thanks, guys :)

Cat - now all you have to do is finish the book and start submitting it! :)

Satima - Actually, from what Rowena said, I don't mind writing synopses. I think that's one of the things I got out of journalism - the ability to write a big story in just a few words. I googled trilogy synopsis and only found one, but it gave me the blueprint I needed.

Sean - say it isn't so. Don't you have oooooooodles of time when you're rich and famous? :)

Debeorah - Aw, shucks :)

chocolatetrudi said...

One of the things you've yet to learn is that you'll tell unpublished writers all of the above and more, and they won't listen. (Or, on rare occasions, they may decide you're being smug about having been published, and just tell you to shut up.)

One of your advantages, Nicole, is you're a good listener. You'll go far.

Best of luck, Trudi

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


One of the things about getting published is that your worries change, and only another published writer can really sympathise.

For instance:

'My poor little book looks so lonely on the bookstore shelves. Will anyone buy it?'

An unpublished writer might say: 'Get over it, at least you are published'.

While any published author would say: 'I know the feeling!'

chocolatetrudi said...

So true. And the benifits of talking to other published writers is not just the understanding and sympathy you get, but the chance to 'talk shop' without boring all the non-writers around you.

Though I suspect being stuck in a car with three writers is Paul's idea of hell these days.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Trudi, my husband is wonderfully patient.

If he takes me out to dinner, then notice I'm looking vague, he'll grin because he knows I'm off with the plotting fairies!

TansyRR said...

I find that a really good time to write the synopsis is halfway through the book - it is a good way of figuring out which aspects of the story are going to be most important to resolve in the second half!

Assuming you're the sort of writer who does not figure out these things ahead of time... *cough*

Rita de Heer said...

I am about halfway through a, hopefully, second last draft. I'm thinking synopsis all the time - with fear and trepidation because I still don't have the knack, and not for want of studying the how.

And then, as Nicole said, there's the need for the synopsis of the trilogy! or whatever the full project turns into

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I'll try to twist one of the ROR team's arm and convince them to write a post about synopsis writing.

Nicole said...

Trudi - oh, shucks *grin* I try to listen, and learn, cause I'd rather benefit from other people's mistakes then make my own :)

Tansy - Dontcha just hate these people that plan and have it all sorted out at the beginning? Well, I do. I'd love to be able to do that. But I can't... *sigh*

Rita - synopsis (synopses?) is/are hard. I did a workshop with Jenny Fallon once and she made us do progressively smaller synopsis of the story, until it was just one sentence. Once you've done that, a couple of pages seems easy :)

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