Suzanne Hartmann is the author of Fast Track Thrillers. Book #1, PERIL, is her debut novel and was just released last month. She has also written the non-fiction book, WRITE THIS WAY: TAKE YOUR WRITING TO A NEW LEVEL, a blueprint for writing a novel for the novice and a revising resource for the veteran author. In addition to wife and homeschool mom, she is a consulting editor for Port Yonder Press. She and her family reside in the ST. LOUIS metro-east area. Suzanne operates the website, FICTION WITH A TWIST and maintains a blog, WRITE THIS WAY, to offer resources on the craft of writing, as well as a critique service, to help authors improve their writing and take it to a new level. Below, Suzanne shares her journey from un-published to published author.
How many complete novels have you written so far?
That depends on your definition of “completed.” If you include the Nano draft of my second book (which needs LOTS of revision), then 2.
How many of those have been published? One
Years you’ve been writing: Five
First thing you ever had published: Four short stories to Millikin Publishing for a reading workbook
In a paragraph or two, describe what the road to novel/book publication was like for you. I was so clueless when I started writing my first novel. After I finished the first draft, I had a couple of people review it for me. Then God led me to some Christian writing forums, and from there to an awesome critique group. After spending five months doing a major revision under the guidance of my critique partners, I felt I had polished it enough to send “my baby” out to agents.
Six months–and many rejections later–I realized the manuscript needed another serious revision. That led to cutting the wordcount from 117K to 89K (yes, I actually cut out about 25% of the words!). Following that came another round of query letter s and rejections. Eventually “out of the blue” (but I know it was by God’s prompting) a critique partner offered to send a referral to her agent, who just happened to be on the top of my list of agents to contact. Although he initially rejected the manuscript, he said I could revise the first few chapters and resubmit. That was the key. He loved the new beginning and offered me a contract!
It took another year and a half of waiting before OakTara offered a publishing contract. This time the waiting was even harder because I wasn’t the only one (or even the main one) making the decisions regarding who to query. I had to put my faith in the agent God had led me to.
Are you a fan of writing contests? Why or why not? No. Most of the time judges are not adequately trained. So you end up with judges marking people down to a 3 for just a few grammatical errors and others giving a 5 just because they like the story. Many times it ends up being luck-of-the-draw. Not to denegrate those who win–to get 3 judges to give high scores means that it is an excellent book–but I think there are many other entries out there that could have had a shot at winning if they had better judges.
Describe the first time you got “The Call.” When I saw my agent’s name on Caller ID, I knew it was either really good news or really bad news. When he said that I’d been offered a contract, I let out a strangled squeal, then thanked him profusely, although my voice probably sounded squeaky. I shook for hours afterwards and could think of nothing else for the rest of the day (or maybe more).
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out? I was so clueless when I first started writing that it’s impossible to pick out only a few things that I needed to know. But God was good in that He DIDN’T let me know many things at the beginning. If I’d known how far out of my comfort zone He was going to take me, I might never have started writing.
Three books on writing/publishing you’d recommend:
The First Five Pages (Noah Lukeman)
Writing Fiction for Dummies (Randy Ingermanson)
Write This Way: Take Your Writing to a New Level (Suzanne Hartmann)
How is being published different than you thought it would be? It’s a LOT more work to market your book than I expected.
What are two pieces of advice you would give to writers who are desperately seeking publication? Be willing to learn, and be persistent.
MORE JOURNEYS TO PUBLICATION