Sunday, August 8, 2010

IF IT WERE EASY...

It is our pleasure to welcome Richard Mabry MD to our blog. Talk about making a dream happen, he did. Welcome!
Posted by Ruby Johnson

Richard Mabry, M.D.
Richard L. Mabry, MD

Writing is a tough business. But, I guess that if it were easy everyone would be doing it. If you've ever sat down and drafted a novel of 80, 100, 120 thousand words, you’re to be congratulated. Lots of people have thought about writing a book. Few have actually done it.

Code Blue is my debut novel, the first of a three-book series, and I'm thrilled at this opportunity, but there are bound to be some of you who are thinking, "Why him? Why not me?" Honestly, I've thought that many times as well. Let me offer a bit of explanation and a word of encouragement.

First, the explanation. I've paid my dues and done my homework. I've been to conferences and been mentored by some of the best writers around, including James Scott Bell. I've read book after book on writing--right now I'm looking at a bookshelf that contains more than twenty-five books on the craft, and there's no dust on any of them. I've practiced the art of what Anne Lamott calls keeping your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard, even when I didn't want to.

That brings me to the second point. I persisted. It might interest you that it's taken me a bit less than five years to become an "overnight success" and sign this contract. I submitted the initial query for my first novel in the summer of 2004. That first novel garnered ten rejections. I revised it extensively, reworked it meticulously, and tried again. This time I got thirteen rejections. My second novel was rejected seven times, including a couple of revisions. My third novel was so bad that my (then) agent rejected it as not good enough to send out. My fourth novel was rejected ten times, and I figured that was enough. By that time I'd been writing for almost four years and, although I'd had a non-fiction book published and my work had appeared numerous times in periodicals, I felt like I wasn't cut out to be a novelist. So I ended my representation agreement with my agent and stopped writing.

Then editor-turned-agent Rachelle Gardner had a contest on her blog, offering a prize for the best first line for a novel. I dashed off one and was totally surprised when I saw that I'd won with the line “Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled up everything.” The prize was a critique of the first several pages of a work-in-progress, so I sent Rachelle the first scene of my latest novel--the one that had been rejected ten times. Her comment was, "Send me something that needs editing." One thing led to another, and I submitted a query about representation. She accepted me, and I got back to writing.

But the happy ending didn't come yet. There were three rejections before Rachelle pitched the work to Barbara Scott, the new chief fiction editor for Abingdon Press. About six weeks later I got the call from Rachelle: "You've sold your first novel." It was wonderful, but the point of all this is that, before that call came, I'd written four novels (five counting totally reworking number one) over a period of over four years, been rejected more than forty times, and completely quit writing once!

So, to my colleagues who haven't received that phone call yet, my hope is that you won't give up. Your time may come yet. I’m pulling for you.


Have a question about writing? Please ask under comments for a chance at winning a book by Richard. Don't forget to check back on Friday for the winner.

Richard is a retired physician, now writing full-time. You can learn more about him at http://rmabry.com and read his blog on writing and daily life at http://rmabry.blogspot.com/.
Richard will be speaking to Greater Fort Worth Writers on August 29, 2010. If you're in the area, we'd love to have you as a guest.

9 comments:

Caroline Clemmons said...

I admire you for persisting. Rejections are so depressing. Congratulations on your success. I'd love to win your book!

caroline@carolineclemmons.com

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Caroline. Hope you're a winner. (I don't pick them...honest).
I look forward to meeting with the group on August 29.

susanwilson44 said...

Hi Richard, I love reading medical thrillers. As a fellow medical professional I love all aspects of the medical lines and am currently trying to write medical romances, however I keep getting told to take some of the medical stuff out! Do you ever go over the top with your medical detail?

Anonymous said...

Richard,

Congratulations on your book contract. I have been seeing your name on blogs for awhile so I feel as though I know you :)

How much did your medical experience influence the book you've written? I am doing some research for a medical story. Where would you suggest I go for accurate information?

I'd love to win a book.

cathy underscore shouse @ yahoo dot com

B. A. Binns said...

I know the power of persistence, having recently sold my own debut novel (PULL is my fourth completed manuscript, but the first to garner the interest of an agent and editor). We all learn to keep writing and keep trying, and sometimes the miracle occurs - the good kind of miracle that doesn't foul up anything.

I would love a chance to win a copy of your book, but either way I'll find a way to get my hands on it, I love a good thriller.

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks for your comments.

Susan, I have to work to make sure my "medical thrillers" are more thriller than medical. I use medicine to introduce aspects that might engage the reader, but have to keep reminding myself that my audience is a lay one, not medical professionals. Sounds like you are having the same problem.

Cathy, I chose to write with a protagonist in the medical profession because that's my background. If you have no medical background but want to write a medical story, you may find help from the Public Information Office of a medical school in your area. You can also contact your county medical society to see if they can suggest someone willing to sit down and answer questions for you. And, of course, you'll get a lot of information from reading medical stories, such as those by Michael Palmer, Tess Gerritsen, or (blush) me.

BA, Congratulations on your persistence and your sale. Way to go.

Chilton T. said...

Hi Richard,

Congratulations on your book deal! Your persistence is inspiring (if not disconcerting hehe), and your book looks really interesting too. I'd love to give it a read.

In viewing your blog post, I became interested in your path to becoming a writer. My main question, then, is: how'd you find your mentor? Also, at what point in your pursuit of becoming a writer did you seek an agent? And, which was the most helpful of the 25-or-more books you read as reference?

Jeff Turner said...

Indeed persistence is paramount. If you don't try you will never know triumph or defeat.

Richard Mabry said...

Chilton, Thanks for your comments. I don't really have one mentor, I've had several, and they all came from connections made at writer's conferences. One, who has helped significantly with advice, was DiAnn Mills, a multi-published Houston writer whom I met in the coffee line early one morning at Mount Hermon, California. Another was James Scott Bell, who made writing interesting for me. My advice is to network--you never know when the person with whom you become friends will be able to give you a helping hand.

I sought an agent after I'd completed my first novel--and that was too soon. Editors tell me that it takes writing at least three novels before someone starts to "get it." When I'm with the group, I'll discuss my agents (I've had two--one a mistake, one a great fit) and how I acquired them.

The most enjoyable book, the one that made me think writing could be fun, is Lawrence Block's TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT. The most helpful book, though, is James Scott Bell's PLOT AND STRUCTURE. Maybe I should make a list of the ones I think are most helpful and include that in my talk as well. Thanks, you've given me the outline I need.

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