Challenge: Write something (prose, poetry, fiction, or even an essay) about the ways your life may have changed. It could have been in the past, the present. Or you can be creative and place it in the future.
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I’m the kind of writer that most other writers hate because, in the mid ‘80s, I answered an ad in the back of a magazine and was offered a job as a contract writer. A couple of times a year I’d receive an outline for a new book along with a set of guidelines and I’d have ninety days to turn out a [GASP] romance novel. In those days, men weren’t allowed to write romance novels so I’d write under the name of an existing writer under contract to Harlequin or Silhouette.
I did that for a couple of years and then thought, Why am I writing under someone else’s name? I can write my own book. So I did.
Consider the timeframe. It’s the late ‘80s, there’s no Internet as we know it, and the publishing houses run everything. If you want to write for them, you send them a request for their guidelines along with a SASE (and sometimes a check for $5), and then wait a couple of months to receive them.
The guidelines were very specific about what you had to do to get your book published. You had to submit a cover letter giving your bio and writing credits and a synopsis of the work. Some publishers wanted the first three or five chapters and some wanted the entire manuscript.
The paper had to be twenty-pound bond (without watermark), margins were one inch all around, the font had to be a serif-style for the text and a sans serif-style for chapter headings, paragraphs had to be double spaced with an extra space between paragraphs, and there had to be X thousands of words give or take 5,000 words.
At the time, I didn’t know about guidelines.
I went to the library, found a book that was in the same genre as what I had written, and wrote down the publisher’s address. I wrote a letter saying something like “Dear Editor, I have a neat manuscript I think would make a great book.” I printed out the entire ms., put the cover letter on it, stuck it into an envelope, and sent it off.
In those days it was not unrealistic to send off a ms., wait six months for a rejection, and then send it off to another publisher.
Not me, nope, nothing I do can be normal. Less than a month later, I received a contract from the publisher and The Gate was published the following year. After selling 50,000 copies, the publisher asked me for a sequel, which I provided, and Revisiting the Gate never saw print because the publisher went out of business just a few months later. And, no, I never thought my book was the reason they went out of business!
This, to me, is one of those life-changing things. Because I actually published a book, I thought I might have a future as a writer and I continued writing. But…
What might have happened if I had followed all the rules? Would the book have been published? If it hadn’t, would I still be interested in writing?
I don’t know.
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