Irish writer Laurence O’Bryan talks us through his route to publishing success – getting a three-book deal after 100 rejections and years of trying.
What I enjoyed most was not the money – there wasn’t much of that – it was the recognition, the sense that what you’ve dreamed about is becoming real. I’ve also received great support here in Dublin, getting invited here and there, a new experience for me.
I watched a biography on TV of William Golding last night. One of the things that resonated for me was his reflection that you can get what you want in life, if you’re prepared to sacrifice enough for it, but in the end you will regret that sacrifice. For me those regrets have been present for a while – my daily routine is a broken thing now – but they are a price worth paying. And anyway, a decade or so of life is an offering the Muses would barely notice.
In 1998 I bought a book on screenwriting. It advised writing a book first. I dabbled and eventually started writing a novel seriously in the middle of 2000. I’ve written almost every day since. You see, I’m a slow learner. Many of you probably picked it all up a lot faster.
I finished my first novel in 2005 and started on The Istanbul Puzzle. That first novel has never been published. I sent it to a “paid for” editor in 2006 for a review. I had to sit down after I read the review. I couldn’t write for a week after. Every point resonated with me.
I decided to get serious. I read around 50 books on the craft of writing, attended conferences (Winchester, Listowel etc) and night courses. And I started getting up at 3 or 4a.m. in order to write. I abandoned The Istanbul Puzzle after it was rejected about a hundred times. I wrote another novel, a psychological thriller, then another, a murder mystery. All were rejected. Finally, in late 2010, I saw an email saying Authonomy were running a one-day workshop at Harper Collins inLondon.
One of the best things about the Harper Collins building is the books. It’s a modern building with glass walls and busy desks, and around each desk and in each corridor and piled around the walls there are books; thrillers and crime novels and books of maps and romance fiction and serious tomes and Tolkien and Cecelia Ahern and Paul Coelho and all new and shiny and better than any bookshop by far.
The smell is amazing. I’ve never smelt anything like it. It’s the smell of paper and publishing.
The serious stuff was good too. I attended workshops all day. And it changed my life. I came away with a new title after listening to a talk by one of their most senior staff. I met authors and agents and nice receptionists and other writers and an editor. I asked one editor (I never spoke to this lady again) if offering to name your next-born child would help to get a publishing contract. She fixed me with a glare and turned away. I deserved it. Another friendly HC editor said, “Why don’t you send me what you’re working on?”Later, I rediscovered the old prayers I still don’t know whether to believe in or not, and over the next few months I recited them. Just in case.
By the end of February 2011 I had an offer to publish three books from Harper Collins.
Sure, I had to edit within an inch of my life, work harder than I ever imagined, but this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. They talk about self belief, about determination, but for me, with hungry mouths to feed, there was no choice. I had to write. I still have no choice. But now I hope only to get more books written and to help my family secure a little of the financial security I never had.
The short road to writing success has one end point. You’re probably familiar with it.