How To Get Published in Just 50 Easy Steps

(Did you miss me? After the craziness of the Distress Signals month-long blogging bonanza, I decided to give you all a month off from me. Well, a month and a bit. Also, since I last blogged WordPress have hidden the ‘justify paragraph’ button from me and it is driving. Me. CUCKOO. I can’t even look at this left-aligned. Oh my God. Deep breaths. Wait! Keyboard shortcuts! YES. Okay. It’s all okay. Everything’s going to be okay. Breathe… Okay. Anyway.)

As of February 1, this little blog is a staggering SEVEN years old. One of the first posts I published on here was a tongue-in-cheek How To Write A Novel in 37 Easy Steps. So, seven years and a bit on, and to break my post-blogging-bonanza fast, I’ve decided to update that – or rather, continue it.

How To Get Published in Just 50 Easy Steps! 

  1. Decide, aged 8, that you are going to be a novelist.
  2. Ask Santa for a typewriter.
  3. Ask your parents for an electronic typewriter.
  4. Ask your parents for a PC.
  5. Spend much of your late teens carrying the first three chapters of your first attempt at a novel, a Formula 1-themed thriller named Chequered Flag, around on a floppy disk. By ‘novel’ read ‘excuse to daydream about Jacques Villeneuve’s abs on the cover of Jacques Villeneuve: A Champion in Pictures’…
  6. Sorry, drifted off there.
  7. Avoid studying for your own Leaving Cert, i.e. the final exams in Irish school, by writing a funny but quite pointless YA novel about avoiding studying for the Leaving Cert. Submit it to a publisher whose office is 5 minutes’ drive from your house, because you think geographical proximity will help seal the deal.
  8. Get rejected.
  9. Tell your parents you need a laptop ‘for college’.
  10. Go to college.
  11. Drop out of college.
  12. Go to NYC for a week’s holiday and think this qualifies you to write from the POV of a NYPD detective. Submit your (god awful) attempt at a detective novel via post to a top London agent and get so swiftly rejected that SAE arrives back at your house before you do.
  13. Stop writing. Pretend that reading books about writing will move you closer to your published novelist dreams in the meantime.
  14. Quit your crappy job working in a greeting card store.
  15. Quit your pleasantly boring job working in an auctioneer’s office.
  16. Take a job in the Netherlands.
  17. Take a job in France.
  18. Take a job in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
  19. Buy John Mayer’s Continuum album and put ‘Stop This Train’ on repeat for 36 days. (This is KEY.)
  20. Go backpacking in Central America.
  21. Start writing a book about number 18 after you return home to Cork.
  22. Find an agent who is interested in said book but cannot represent you on the strength of it due to there being only about 23 people in the whole world who’d be interested in reading it and even less in buying it (probably).
  23. Tell agent you are already writing a novel. (This is a big fat LIE.)
  24. Decide you can’t write the novel because your soul-destroying job is slowly but surely sucking all the life force out of your blackening soul and if you don’t do something about it soon your heart will be an empty abyss of abandoned dreams, bitterness and contempt.
  25. Quit your job – in the middle of a devastating economic recession, for maximum dramatic effect.
  26. Put a MacBook on your credit card, because you simply cannot work under these conditions.
  27. Use your savings to relocate to an isolated and slightly scary holiday home by the sea (in winter, in Ireland) with two coffee machines and your new computer.
  28. Write a comic, corporate satire, chick-litty novel. Describe it The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers.
  29. Start submitting the novel to agents and editors.
  30. Buy John Mayer’s new Battle Studies album and put the song Assassins on repeat for thirteen days. (No, really. This is KEY.)
  31. Self-publish the Disney book, i.e. Mousetrapped.
  32. Read an article about cruise ship disappearances in a magazine that someone left behind them in a café that your mum was in shortly before she picked it up and brought it home.
  33. Write a book about number 20.
  34. Self-publish that book, i.e. Backpacked.
  35. Get a meeting at a Major Publishing House by way of your friend Vanessa. The MPH don’t like the Weightwatchers Prada book, but they do like your writing. Tell them you’ll write something else.
  36. Writing something else (well, a synopsis and three chapters of it) and send it to the MPH.
  37. Writing something else else (well, a synopsis and three chapters of it) and send it to the MPH.
  38. Write something else else else (well, a synopsis and three chapters of it) and sent it to the MPH.
  39. Go for a meeting at the MPH and get offered freelance work using social media to promote their commercial fiction titles instead. Be very excited about this.
  40. Get an idea for a thriller from number 32. Write 30,000 words of it.
  41. Stop.
  42. Buy John Mayer’s Born and Raised and put the title track on repeat for the entire month of May.
  43. Let a year pass.
  44. Struggle to find anything to play on repeat on Mayer’s Paradise Valley. *tear*
  45. Decide to apply to return to university as a mature student to student English Literature.
  46. Panic when you actually get in, as this necessitates a move to Dublin. Use the panic to push past the 30,000 barrier and finish the thriller. Call it Dark Waters. Start submitting it to agents.
  47. Go to college. Stay this time. Use this as a distraction from the UTTER DEVASTATION OF REJECTION.
  48. Unexpectedly get offer of representation from dream agent while sitting in a coffee-shop near college waiting for your American Genres lecture and looking out at grey and gloomy rain. (Hooray!)
  49. Work with agent’s amazing in-house editor to write a second draft of the thriller. Change the name to Adrift.
  50. Get a 2-book deal. (Bigger hooray!) Change book’s name to Distress Signals. Start buying everything you see with an anchor on it and planning your book launch like it’s your wedding.

If you want to read Distress Signals, check it out here for Ireland/UK and here for the USA. Also if you’re in Dublin this Saturday, I’m chairing a panel on self-publishing at the Irish Writers’ Centre Women Aloud NI IWD event. Get more info on that here.

Also, on a more serious note, there’s an update on the Irish resident accused of murdering his wife on the MSC Magnifica. In a line that could’ve come from Distress Signals, his lawyer has said to reporters, ‘If this was murder, where is the body? Where are the witnesses?’ (There are neither because, of course, this is a cruise ship.) A working theory is that he allegedly stuffed her body into a suitcase and threw it from the balcony of their Deck 11 cabin. You can read more about this terrible case here.

Next time on Catherine’s blog: the Great Desk Redesign of 2017! It involves an actual pink typewriter. AN ACTUAL ONE. 

10 Steps to Perfecting Procrastination

Recently I noticed that all the procrastination-related tweets/posts/motivational CDs of questionable legality costing just five easy payments of $199.99 seemed to be aimed at solving our habit of doing anything at all that we can think of except the thing we’re supposed to be doing, which for many of us is writing another chunk of words.

But what if want to procrastinate? What if we need to? What if we’ve never finished a novel before and are happy to stay here for a while, just before the end, and enjoy the view for a few minutes (or days, or weeks), before we send our double-spaced baby out in the world so that the awful waiting game can begin?  What if we’d rather finish a few weeks behind and prolong the dream, delaying that inevitable day when someone will tell us that our characters are two dimensional stereotypes, our scenes lack conflict, our plot is confusing and that one of our characters is pregnant for eleven months?

I figure I’ve spotted a gap in the blog post market. So here is (drum roll, please): Catherine’s Not So Patented 10 Steps to Perfecting Procrastination Today: Everything You Need to Know and Do To Never EVER Finish That Novel!

1. Only Work With Wi-fi

It is imperative that you only work in areas with wireless connectivity and with your computer set to receive it, so that you have the constant temptation to check for new e-mail messages, Facebook notifications and the latest on Tiger Woods. Mac Users: don’t even THINK about using this.

2. Use Twitter to Bookend Every Task

Twitter can be the ultimate procrastination facilitator but only if you know how to maximize its potential. The simplest way is to bookend every task/action/bodily function with what we like to call the TwitterCheck. For example: you are writing and decide to make a cup of coffee (see step 7). While this alone will waste a good 5-10 minutes of your time, the TwitterCheck method can push that to a minimum of 30 minutes. Yes, really! All you need to do is check Twitter BEFORE you go to make the coffee and AFTER you get back, i.e. ‘bookending’ the coffee making with TwitterChecks. It’s just that simple!

3. Become a Neat Freak

Refuse to work in any space that isn’t clean, dusted, organized, colour-coded, alphabetized, arranged for optimum feng shui and has ‘a good energy.’

4. Don’t Use Sky+ or Online iPlayers

Services like Sky+ and online ‘catch up’ players will be the death of procrastination – stick with live TV. If you want to watch something at 8pm and you set it to record, you could find yourself working as late as ten or eleven o’clock safe in the knowledge that you can watch that program at your leisure. However if you give yourself no option but to watch it live, you are far more likely to stop working at six-ish (to have your dinner), spend the intervening two hours watching TV you’re not even interested in (because what’s the point of going back to work? It’ll be on in a minute) and doing nothing for the rest of the night (well, you’re here now so you may as well watch ‘celebrities’ you don’t recognize camping/dancing/figure skating).

5. Invent a Need for Time Swallowing Tasks

Learn from this example from my own not-so-creative life: I have a self-published book-like thingy coming out in March and am trying to not finish a novel to submit to an agent at the beginning of January. (It was supposed to be this week, incidentally, that I was to originally submit it – see how effective this procrastination plan is?) But instead of finishing the novel first and then working on publicity for the self-published book (which is called, FYI, Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida and is about, FYI, one girl’s – i.e. this one – search for happiness in the happiest place on Earth and has, FYI, several funny bits), I took three days – THREE DAYS! – off from the novel to make a book trailer and to make this Facebook page, which you looking at for a couple of minutes and then clicking the ‘Become a Fan’ button will help your procrastination! Don’t say I never give you anything.

6. Two O’Clock is the New Seven

As I’m at home writing full-time at the moment (I believe “unemployed” is the common term), I find myself with ample opportunity to finish my book. In fact, on some days I’ve got as much as five or six thousands words done. Disaster! To combat this productivity, I initiated the ‘Two O’Clock is the New Seven” Rule, which works like this: if I haven’t started by two then I won’t start at all, because what’s the point? The day is practically OVER. To help yourself not start by two, see steps 3 and 9.

7. Develop a Caffeine Addiction

If you never want to finish your book, this step is non-negotiable. Not only will making endless cups of coffee waste an hour or so every day, but the Caffeine Depleted Syndrome (also known as ‘The Jitters’) that sets in about 3pm – symptoms include nausea, clouded thinking, headaches, shaky hands and an overwhelming urge to dance to Britney Spears’ songs – will prevent you from writing anything of note in the afternoon.

8. Chart Your (Lack of) Progress

This may surprise you but your unfinished book is a wealth of procrastination in itself! It has lots of confusing things like plots, characters, scenes, timelines, words, sequences – all of which can be charted, graphed and listed, wasting hours upon hours of your time (and paper)! To maximize the procrastination, alternate between hand-drawn charts (rulers, pencils) and Excel spreadsheets, colour-code, cross-reference and refuse to use any on which you’ve made a mistake. Happy graphing!

9. Sleep

Sleeping can be a procrastinator’s best friend. For maximum results, utilize naps and throw out your alarm clocks.

10. Write Random Blog Posts

Finally, the Number 1 Step to Perfecting Procrastination and making sure that novel of yours never gets written is to write numerous random blog posts – like this one.

Here are your 3 FREE BONUS Procrastination Tips:

– Leave comments on blog posts (well, you’re already here so…)

– Follow people who have nothing of import to say on Twitter (well, you already know me so…)

– Unlearn how to touch type and/or break a couple of fingers.

HAPPY PROCRASTINATING!