I think there are six elements to publication, each one critical.

  1. A well-written story: By well-written I mean all of the basics: spelling, grammar, punctuation, lay-out. You can have the most genius idea in the world, but if you aren’t adhering to the traditional grammar rules and you’re buried in typos, no one will take you seriously. This took me a very long time to learn. I am a terrible typist and an awful proof-reader, and even though I was an English major, I make LOTS of spelling and grammatical errors. I really try not to, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort.
  2. A well-told story: By well-told story I mean a unique story idea with rich, colorful characters involved in an interesting or intriguing plot. These three things are huge so I want to say them again:
    • A unique story idea (“concept”)
    • With rich, colorful characters
    • An interesting and intriguing plot
  3. Feedback loop: I think you can have neither a well-written nor a well-told story without a safe critique group or feedback from multiple places.
  4. A well-pitched query: A strong query letter and synopsis are needed. These two documents can be short, but can take an eternity to write. And it is important that they are very tight and polished. I had my query and synopsis critiqued several times before it was ready to send out. Many articles about writing query letters are available on the internet.
  5. An advocate: If you are unfamiliar with the publishing industry, you probably need someone who can represent you, an agent. Once you have a solid project to shop around, consider attending conferences. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land and to familiarize yourself with literary agents. This is the route I went. Of course, authors can query publishers directly.
  6. Time and a place to write:
    • Time: If you can’t get your butt in a chair, you can’t write a book. Finding time is difficult for most writers because we are plagued bymultiple competing priorities. But, I promise you that if you don’t find thetime to write, you won’t.
    • Space: Finding a space to write is important. If you have a home office,you are way ahead of most people. I often find that I concentrate betteroutside of my house and I do a lot of writing at cafes, diner, and even in>my car. Get out and experiment until you can find a space where youcan put your other obligations in the back of your mind.