Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Writing that first book.

A man in my neighbourhood recently asked if I would give him some help as he wanted to write a book. He had his topic and some research, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do next. I spent a few hours with him working out some kinks and directing him to a path of action. I gave him some homework involving looking for prospective publishers and gathering his submission package, and promised I’d come back and help again once he had that much nailed down.

A couple of weeks later, I went to a wedding and found he was seated at my table. As were a random group of other locals. Next thing, everyone was asking him about his book, how was it coming, was he finished yet, and could they read it. I knew I hadn’t told anyone about his venture, so the leak was in his corner.

One of the first lessons new authors need to learn is to shut up about the project. Do not tell people you are writing a book. Just say you are busy when they ask for a piece of your time, and change the subject if they persist. This poor new author is going to have to listen for the next two years to people demanding to read the book, and being shocked when he says it isn’t out yet.

This was one of the first lessons I learned. I wrote my first book, which turned out to be pretty much of a dung heap, although I was not aware of that. I mistakenly told a friend about it, thinking she wouldn’t harp at me since she lived 700 miles away. Very soon my dung heap started clocking up the rejection letters. And lo, one day the friend called and asked how the book was going. I had to confess 6 rejections and counting. She sniffed and said “Tell them to smarten up.”

It wasn’t the publishers who had to smarten up. It was me. I needed to write another, better, book. And this time I needed to keep quiet about it. Which I did, for the next 9 books.

Did that happen to you with your first book?

Vicki Cameron is the author of Clue Mysteries and More Clue Mysteries, each of the 15 short stories based on the board game Clue. Her young adult novel, Shillings, appeared in 2007. Her stories appear in the Ladies' Killing Circle anthology series and Storyteller Magazine. Her young adult novel, That Kind of Money, was nominated for an Edgar and an Arthur Ellis.

1 comment:

  1. Good advice. I recently made the mistake of asking a fellow how his novel (which he had enthused about a couple of years ago) was coming along. He looked sheepish and said he'd abandoned it. We both ended up feeling embarassed.