Success Story with Paula Greenlees
Paula Greenlees is an author of historical fiction based in Warwickshire, UK. Her debut novel, Journey to Paradise, is published by Arrow, firstly as an e-book in May 2021, and then as a paperback in December 2021. Paula is well- travelled and has had a varied career: as a teacher, running her own businesses, and finally pursuing her dream of being a full-time writer. She enjoys walking, good food, chocolate, and settling down at the end of the day with a large gin and tonic. For more information about Paula and her novels, please visit her website PaulaGreenlees.com, or connect with her over social media.
Most people imagine a novelist sitting down at a computer seamlessly typing as ideas and words flow until they can finally write The End, before sending their manuscript out to a publisher in a brown envelope ready to be published. Writers will tell you: it doesn’t work like that.
Like most published authors, I started out writing poetry, short stories, even constructing the first 30,000 words of a couple of novels. It was tough, and I kept hitting a wall. Over the years, this wall kept stopping me from fulfilling my ambition and I didn’t know what to do.
I decided to join a couple of writing groups, which in turn led to me creating a portfolio of polished work and being accepted for a master’s degree at Sheffield Hallam University. Although this was really hard at times, I learnt a lot about the craft of writing, how to share my work with my peers, and how to receive feedback. I discovered that it is only through planning, critiquing, rewriting, and polishing, all fuelled by sheer determination, that anything gets written at all. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like giving up, that I thought my writing was rubbish, and why was I even trying when the chances of getting published were zero?
Without the support of other like-minded writers I would most certainly have given up.
However, I finished my master’s with a completed novel, and I was rather taken aback by the encouraging comments I’d received by my assessor. "Put it out there" was the comment that stuck the most. "See what happens." So, I did.
I decided to approach five agents to see what kind of a reaction I got. This turned out to be a good idea, because some of the early feedback I received meant I could re-write the first three chapters of my MS and enquiry letter knowing what was not quite grabbing them.
Once I’d polished these again, I sent off my MS once more to another five agents. I think in all I sent off to about fifteen agents, with some positive reactions and some interest, but none that felt right or led to an offer. I was about to give up when my wonderful agent took me on.
The message here is, don’t give up, listen to criticism, polish, hone your craft. Even if you think it’s the best it can be, your writing still has room for improvement. Read as much a you can in your genre and see how others have mastered their craft. Ask as many people as possible for their opinions and don’t be hurt by what they say.
Writers need readers—listen to them. If one person doesn’t agree with something you’ve written, you don’t need to change it; if three do, perhaps you should consider it. Go on courses, join writing groups for feedback, but most of all you need to write, every day if you can. It’s an uphill struggle, but you will get there even though the climb seems impossible at times. Set a goal, and write, then rewrite and polish it all again.
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. It’s taken about ten years from my first ideas forming to my novel being published. At times, I really didn’t think I’d make it, but by taking a step back, mulling over the advice or criticism I’d been given, taking a deep breath and diving back in again, that’s how my final best-as-it-can-be highly polished novel emerged.