I meet people on a daily basis who have a really good, original idea for a novel, and they often have a true passion for reading good books and a sense of mission about writing one themselves.
Then they run into reality.
They come face to face with the truth that writing takes more than a good idea and a desire. In Ivy Keating’s story, we can see that it takes a great idea, a real desire, and then a whole lot of grit and persistence.
Ginger: Ivy, I understand that your novel is going to be published soon. Can you tell us about the book—what is the genre and the age group? When will it be out? And who is the publisher?
Ivy: Camouflage is science fiction with mystery and romance, written for anyone over the age of eighteen.
Ginger: What is the book about—where does it take place, who are the main characters, and what is the central conflict?
Ivy: The story takes place in a small town in New England. The main character is the newly appointed police chief who is conducting a missing person’s investigation. The search leads him to Quarry Head Park, a local scenic preserve. From the depths of the forests, a deadly prehistoric looking creature emerges, creating chaos.
The chief and a team of scientists try to ensure the safety of the town while preserving this remarkable discovery. The officer will risk his career, his reputation, and even his own life to stand by what he believes in.
The book asks the question: Can science and sentiment win out over fear and the determination to destroy?
Ginger: I like that you have combined an interesting place and a good character with a real conflict today—science vs. fear—and used the sci fi genre to tell the whole story!
I know that you worked on this book for quite a while because we worked together early in the process. Can you tell me the journey you took to get this book written, revised, and ultimately to a good publication?
Ivy: I started writing Camouflage about five years ago. I live in a beautiful town in Connecticut surrounded by trees and lakes. One day in fall, I looked into the woodlands and wondered what mysterious creatures could be hidden in the forest. In time I started thinking, what would happen if we found a huge monstrous animal. Would we hunt it down? I hope not—I love animals—but it would depend on who’s in charge. The idea of what would happen intrigued me and I started writing Camouflage.
What I find interesting about my book writing process is that I never considered myself a writer. In college I did not major in English Literature or take creative writing courses. I have a master’s degree in social work. But now I had a story I wanted to tell and once I decide I’m going to do something, it’s not like me to stop.
Ginger: Ivy, that is such a key component to any writer’s success that I want to applaud you for making that commitment. It is easy to think that the great writers succeeded “overnight,” but I just recently read a quote from Sandra Cisneros that if she was an overnight sensation, it was the longest night she’d ever known!
Ivy: After the first two years, I made a commitment to myself that I would not spend a lot of money to have it published, but I realized I needed help with editing and learning how to write a novel.
I searched online and found Lisa Tener’s website. Having no experience with the process, I felt nervous contacting her. I didn’t want to seem naïve and foolish. Lisa got right back to me and referred me to an editor at a price I felt comfortable with. I reached out to Lisa several times on my road to being published. Her advice and referrals helped tremendously.
Working with an editor helped. I liked the way my story read, but after drafting a query letter and sending Camouflage out to agents and publishers, I was not any closer to getting published. This is when Lisa referred me to you, the best writing coach.
Ginger: Oh, thank you! It’s always an enormous pleasure to hear from someone like you who has just been taken over by a story idea and has made the commitment to writing it well.
What are your top two pieces of advice to writers about getting help?
Ivy: My top two pieces of advice for anyone who wants to be published are these:
- It’s what you don’t know about writing a book that will hurt your chances so learn all the rules,
- If you receive constructive criticism listen to it. I learned to love criticism and found it was the only thing that really helped me improve my work. Tweet This
Ginger: That is music to an editor’s ears!
What happened after you rewrote your query?
Ivy: With your help, a few publishers and two agents showed some interest. Eventually, four publishing houses showed interest in Camouflage. Knopf requested additional pages. Two of the houses asked for rewrites. They pointed out things they wanted changed. Publishers are not shy. They will tell you flatly what does not work for them. I loved the criticism because it meant they were taking an interest and telling me what to work on. I moved around chapters, added details to characters, and resubmitted it, over and over again.
Ginger: Is that all there was to it?
Ivy: No, my writing still needed work. I learned the basic rules about writing a novel from you. The most important one was staying with one point of view in a chapter. I never wrote a book before—how would I know this? My novel jumped from person to person and the reader had to contend with too many characters’ viewpoints. I had to rewrite the entire story while we worked together. I can’t thank you enough. Correcting this flaw gave my novel a chance at publication.
Ginger: I see that mistake so often that it is almost predictable. A novel almost always benefits from being told from one or very few points of view. This puts the emphasis on character development rather than plot tension which is often both more interesting to the reader and easier to do—it is hard to come up with plots that are fresh!
How many other people helped you with the book?
Ivy: When my novel is published this August, four professional editors will have worked on it. One became my co-author.
Ginger: What was the submission process like for you and how long did it take?
Ivy: I had to send Camouflage out to many, many, publishers over a two year period. I stopped keeping records of rejections after around 40 publishing houses and even more agents.
I started the publishing process by researching where to send an adult science fiction. Once I found a publishing house that published my genre I would look on their website for how to submit my novel to them. Some places had online forms, others gave a list of agents and their bios. I would try to find someone that had an interest in my type of story. If I couldn’t find this, I’d see if personally we shared anything in common. I looked for anything I could add to my query letter to make them interested in working with me.
Responses took anywhere from a week to two years. If you want to be published do not wait on one publishing house. Tweet This Find as many places as you can that work with your type of book and submit your work to them with your best query and include why your book fits with their list.
It took persistence to find a publisher but there are many publishing houses out there. Finding a publisher took less time daily then writing my novel, but it required the same effort.
Finally, it seemed like I had two publishing houses that could give me an offer. When CBG sent me a contract I accepted.
Ginger: That is an amazing story—and also very normal, in terms of the time it takes to submit, hear back, work with a publisher, and finally get an acceptance. Many people don’t understand the process and are frustrated by how long it takes. You did everything just right, from going deep with your research into publishers and their guidelines to finding a personal connection to agents and publishers. And, of course, sticking with it!
What makes you so persistent?
Ivy: I think it’s my personality that makes me persistent. I stay focused when I want something. I tell my kids to give things 110%, (that’s not a typo) and when I hear the word can’t I usually think—”How can I do that?”
Ginger: It would be great if you could bottle that and share with all of us!
You have really earned your wings with this process. What other advice would you offer to other writers?
- There are wonderful resources out there that can help you write a novel. I read all the free advice I could. When I knew I needed additional help, I stayed within a budget.
- Crafting beautiful sentences is a skill that takes time to develop.
- Know the rules for writing a novel. It’s not good enough to tell a story. Well written novels follow guidelines.
- Love criticism. When I shared some of my writing with friends and family, before sending my book out to publishers, it was nice to hear what they liked about it, but that did not really help me. Hearing from a prospective publisher that the action in my novel starts too late—that got me working.
- Publishing houses like to know how you are going to help market your book. I opened a website and started posting on social media sites. I learned I love taking pictures of nature and sharing them on Instagram, however, I have to focus on connecting with readers who love science fiction, if I want to sell my novel. Tweet This
Ginger: Congratulations on your publication. Are you working on another book?
Ivy: Yes! And I’m proud to say I believe I’ve acquired the skills to be the sole author.
Sarana and the Dark King is a fantasy novel for adults, about a ruthless king with the magic to cause instant death. Only one thing could stop his reign of terror, a commoner with a secret past and a power of her own.
Ginger: Sounds wonderful! I look forward to reading the final version of Camouflage.