Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My First Published Fiction: What I've Learned

Finally! After years of pitching for fiction contracts, I finally caught one.

Barbour Publishing surprised me last September at the ACFW conference with a dream come true.

Like many ACFW members, I've taken numerous classes, workshops and seminars to acquire skills I needed for this milestone. However, I encountered unexpected challenges. Below, I offer my insights, hoping my experience will benefit other writers soon to share the publishing journey:

1) If you're contracted to write a funny book over five months, this does not guarantee you 150 funny days in which to write it.

2) When your children/grandchildren only see your face on a milk carton, it's time to come out of the writing cave.

3) Water your plants at least once before deadline.

4) Don't neglect your e-mail. Agents and editors use it. Plus, you really might have won a million dollars from a sweepstakes clearinghouse in Libya.

5) Naps make your characters nicer. Not their naps. Yours.

6) Recognize you are not the only writer experiencing a bad day. Flannery O'Connor once wrote, "Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay." If you retain 50 percent or more of your hair and teeth after your first contract, consider yourself successful.

7) If, during your last bank withdrawal, you asked the ATM to be your Facebook friend, you probably need to re-vamp your social life.

8) If your church dedicates a stained glass window in your memory, you probably should show up more.

9) Remember that good critique partners are like compassionate dentists. They often function as gifts of God in disguise.

10) If your refrigerator cries, "Unclean, unclean!" when you open it, you should do a little housework. Plus, you're definitely overdue for some sleep.

11) If your protagonist is kissing her beloved more than you are yours, revise your writing--and kissing--schedules. Why should our characters have all the fun?

12) And if they're praying more than you are, ditto, ditto, double ditto.

13) Finally, use the word "ditto" a lot in your manuscript. It makes you sound smart and adds to a skinny work count.

Some might refute such suggestions because they sound a little random, a little garbled and, frankly, unbalanced.

To which I reply: those facing a deadline with ten days to go and counting will suffer such temporary insanity. May all of us be blessed with it again and again.

- Rachael Phillips -


  1. Love this list! Perhaps I will post it on the fridge; am planning on starting a novel this year. Or maybe I don't want to...? LOL

    Congrats, Rachael, on the contract!

  2. Rachael, thanks for a little literary humor to start the day. I completely ditto you on the husband/wife kissing schedule! However, every time someone emails me offers of a free million bucks, it seems to be from the lawyer of a wealthy Nigerian (not Libyan) who died and left no legal heirs. Perhaps my byline isn't appearing often enough in Libya?...

  3. Rachael,
    Funny, funny, funny! Praying for you, girl!

  4. Thanks, Karen! Don't let me scare you off. (Probably not the mission of this blog.) Novel writing is a sweet madness.

    And Rick--perhaps you should consider a Libyan booksigning tour? (Sorry, I won't be there.)
    Anyway, blessings on your writing day.

  5. Thanks, Lisa! So sorry to hear of your illness. Hugs and prayers atcha.

  6. Congrats on your contract, and thanks for the humor relief.

  7. Wonderful list! Unfortunately, I relate all too well to the refrigerator comment, especially the part about being overdue for sleep.

  8. Rachael, you're still alive? Phew. I thought you were buried in Ivanhoe's milkshake list.

    You still have it! So funny! Aw, and who cares about the fridge? Write on!

  9. Thanks! Maybe a fridge containing alternate life forms is required for writers.

    As for Ivanhoe's--don't I wish! Anybody want to go eat a giant turtle sundae or two when I finish this novella?

  10. Rachael, you certainly know how to cheer the downtrodden. You go girl!

  11. Thanks, everybody, for the kind comments. You gave a smile to my day!