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My Journey Of Becoming A Published Novelist, by Jenn J McLeod

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Let’s face it, those of you who have been there done that already know this author business is not all book-signings and Sunday brunches. Mostly we are hunched over a keyboard – a kind of self-imposed solitary confinement – developing addictions to coffee, chocolate and Tim Tam Slams (I dare you to stop at one) and filling our heads with fictional friends rather than real ones.

When I came onboard for Writing Novels in Australia, I wondered what I might have to say in twelve blog posts over twelve months that would be of interest to other writers. After all, I am not an expert. I don’t even have a book out there yet and I hold no Creative Writing degree. (To be honest, studying has never been my strong point. For me, learning to dissect something you love, simply to understand why you love it, makes me not love it so much any more – too many rules, too much control. Structure and discipline is one thing, but to control is to limit. (Agree? Disagree? Maybe you’ll share your thoughts. I’d like to get some discussion going with each post.)

For those who don’t know me, I am soon-to-be-published, having sold two novels to Simon & Schuster last year. My debut release, House for all Seasons, is out on March 1st. Getting to this point, however, took a long time and, to borrow from Mr Twain, not until I finally threw off the bowlines, sailed away from the safe harbour, and let the trade winds catch my sails did I find the courage to:

Explore. Dream. Discover.

In truth, I spent a lot of time feeling lost. I was a cork bobbing on an ocean of wanna-be authors, floundering for what seemed like forever. But as solo circumnavigator Paul Lotus, says:

“You can’t steer a boat that isn’t moving? Just like a life.”

So I made my own wind (hmm, that doesn’t sound too good) and here I am… a LinkedIn, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking 52- year-old starting a new career at an age when a book like 50 Shades of Grey makes me think of my hair rather than my love life. In contrast to grey, however, my message for those charting their own course for publication is very black and white:

  1. It doesn’t have to be fiction. Anything is possible;
  2. Extraordinary things do happen to ordinary people; and
  3. It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

So if you want to follow my posts over the coming year, we can explore, dream, and discover together and I will introduce my strategy of:

Believe. Be Brave. Be Business-like.


Jenn J McLeod’s author website:

Jenn J McLeod’s bio page


Burning LiesThe Lavender KeeperTommo and HawkThe MistakeShallow BreathBlue SkiesAutobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition: v. 1 (Mark Twain Papers S.)

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love your last line, Jenn. It’s a fantastic mantra for a writer. We have to believe or it would be hard to keep writing in the face of rejection. We have to be brave because we expose so much of ourselves in our writing. And being businesslike is mandatory!!

    Looking forward to reading House for All Seasons very soon.

    January 10, 2013
  2. fitzroylou #

    Great post, Jenn. It’s good to be reminded that this writing business is in large part about perseverence. Wanting to do this in the face of sometimes considerable odds, largely for peanuts compared to paying day jobs, means we love it and couldn’t see ourselves any other way.

    January 10, 2013
  3. Well bloody done. Can’t wait to read House for all Seasons. You give this 45-year-old wannabe hope.

    January 10, 2013
  4. A lovely, heartwarming depiction of the journey Jenn – just wanted to say that. I’m so looking forward to reading House for all Seasons. Thank you for sharing. Sounds like your business-like self is following your skill and your heart. Love & luck to you (as if you’re going to need it!)

    January 10, 2013
  5. Vanessa Hair #

    That was very interesting Jenn! I too have thought about writing a book, I have had a very eventful life!! I completed what they call THE STEPS PROGRAM at the Central Queensland University (online) and now I have myself an Entry into Uni!! So proud of myself completing that!! Considering all the turmoil that was and still is, going on in my life, I never thought I’d complete the Program!! I chose to do Bachelor Of Arts, but deferred for a little while because my life is still a bit unsettled at the moment! Maybe when my life settles down a bit I might start my Studies again, but I will have to decide soon as I will be 49 years old this year!! I think one of the Courses in the BOA Degrees is Creative Writing, so I would have to do that, wouldn’t I if I chose to write a book?

    January 10, 2013
  6. Thanks for number 3 on your list… ‘it’s never too late to follow your dreams.’ Thank God for that. I still have time! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    January 10, 2013
  7. Thank you lovely people. I am buoyed by your comments and look forward to bringing the next 11 in the series. Nice to see you here, Shambolicliving. I love your blog. Vanessa, you have made my night. Congratulations on your achievements….so far! I reckon, stop, breathe, become a sponge and take little steps. Just here in these comments you have some great mentors. Watch and learn. It’s what I did/do (Thx Helene). If I had my time over I would do a course or some study. It might have made me a better author/faster learner. Instead I attended the trial and error school and found my own way. So whatever is going to arouse the passion that gets you writing that book. I chose to just damn well write!

    January 10, 2013
  8. Thank you Jenn for your inspiring article. It creates hope in what others describe as a hopeless market! I’m nearing completion of my first novel but, like you, have no Creative Writing Degree – you are proof that, whilst helpful, it’s not absolutely necessary.

    January 10, 2013
  9. Julie Davies #

    I’m 56 and setting out on the same path, Jenn (the main character in my first book is called Jenn). I started an English lit degree when I was young and changed major after 1 semester. I agree with you about examining great literature too closely. I felt like I had dissected a butterfly to appreciate it but all I was left with was organs.

    January 10, 2013
  10. Hi Gemma and Julie. You gave me goosebumps. I’m really glad my article resonated. As my coming posts will go on to explain, there is a lot of luck in this business. I will cover that …. Hmmm.. Can’t remember which post. Maybe March?? Can’t check. Am on my ipad ATM. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. It means a lot to me.

    January 10, 2013
  11. Lol Sarah, yes you have time! This is my 53rd year and I kinda liked finding out Bryce Courtney was also 53 at the time of his first novel. 😉

    January 10, 2013
  12. A great post, Jen. The Twain quote gave me goosebumps.
    I was 53 last year, and also published my first novel, as you know. So it’s me and you and Bryce together (I was thrilled to read that!) I’d wanted to write since I read Emily of New Moon when I was twelve, but had pretty well given up on that particular dream. I married late (6 years ago) and I think it was the unconditional support of my husband that gave me the courage to go for it – it’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’re not good enough to go for the big dreams.
    I have several degrees (Law, History) but I never wanted to do a creative writing degree. But I’ve always I read lots and lots of novels in all sorts of genres and eventually I tried to work out the writing craft from the people who I thought were good at it. Then I simply started to write. Once I’d finished the first draft I got help, through a good free-lance editor. The second novel flowed more easily – I’ve just today finished the last edits! Whew! It’ll be published in May.
    I’m really looking forward to reading House for All Seasons. And more of your blog entries.

    January 10, 2013
  13. Well, Deborah, I say let’s make ‘the fifties’ the new ‘thirties’!!!!!! 🙂

    January 11, 2013
  14. Hi Jenn, what a fabulous journey you have had and March isn’t that far away!! Am going to write your last line onto a post-it and stick it to my computer!

    January 11, 2013
  15. Thank you Alissa (and congrats on your recent releases – two!). There is more to my Believe. Be brave. Be business-like stragey. I will cover a lot of ground over the next 12 months. Should be fun and informative.

    January 11, 2013
  16. Oh Jenn, I think I have found a kindred spirit in you! Tim tam slams aside, what a wonderful and inspiring post.
    I too am not much good at the dissection part of creativity, and within my own storywriting process I hate to stop and think and control where it is going. In my own experience, control can sink a story, especially if we’re using the metaphors of wind and sailing. Whoever thought they could control the wind?
    So I agree with you, pull up that anchor, throw of those bowlines and let the winds of creativity take you where they will. Dont worry about what you might have to say, or worry about being expert or not (we are all experts of our own experience.)
    Dont even worry about having a degree or not. Just write and let your heart be your compass because I think that it is enough to simply know that you love it. To know that it (the story, the poem or the blog post) came to you because it needed to be told, and enjoy following it to the end with unquestionable fervor.

    January 15, 2013
  17. Kylie, that is a wonderful comment. I just got goosebumps! I particulary love “we are all experts of our own experience”. Thank you for taking to time to leave a comment.

    January 17, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (January 2013) | Writing Novels in Australia
  2. This Week’s Author Interview: Jenn McLeod, A House For All Seasons. | Flying Pony
  3. This week on Flying Pony: Interviews with Jenn Mcleod and Fiona Palmer | Pamela Cook
  4. A Letter From Jenn J McLeod | My Blog
  5. Author Spotlight with Jenn J McLeod | Romance Writers of Australia
  6. On Critiques, Contests And Conferences, by Jenn J McLeod | Writing Novels in Australia

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