Gail Anderson-Dargatz  

Resources for Writers

On Publishing

"Get used to it"

     — on the pin and needles and other nervous ailments of a writer's life

My fifth novel, The Shadow Queen, will be published on April 8. I am astonished even writing that. Fifth? Why am I on pins and needles? One would think I would be used to it by now.


First, there are the physical challenges of meeting the pubic: nails, hair, face, clothes. As an author giving a talk, one is in front of a group for some time  . . .  long enough for everyone to make a careful assessment. Think of the last time you went to a reading. Did you check out the author's footwear, his or her "look"? Confess!

And then, more importantly, there is what I will actually say. In the years between publications, I go into writing solitary, and then suddenly I'm thrust onto a stage and expected to be coherent.

It has been over six months since I dipped into the pages of The Shadow Queen. Since then, I've been writing The Next Novel—and that's where my writer brain is focused. But now, with publication approaching like a fast-moving freight train, it's time to open The Shadow Queen and have a look, time to make a list of questions that might be asked, prepare answers, consider various selections for reading. And practice, practice, practice.

But the one thing that makes me the most anxious is the possibility of universal indifference toward my new novel  . . . or condemnation of it. I'm not sure which is worse. I tell myself not to take reviews to heart—to not even read them—but that's hard to do.

Before I was published, before I even had a finished manuscript in hand, I consulted Jane Urquhart, who was writer-in-residence at the University of Ottawa at the time. We talked of many things, including my never-ending attempts to get published, my discouragement over constant rejection.

"Get used to it," she told me. "If it's not rejections, it's reviews." 

 Wise words for all writers, aspiring or published. Get used to it.

And now, suddenly, I have in my hands an actual book: The Shadow Queen. Whatever pins and needles I'm suffering, it all seems worthwhile, for it is simply beautiful. I doubt that I will ever "get used to" the amazing satisfaction of this singular moment—but as for the rest of the publishing process, the judgment and assessment of my labor of love? I'm still trying to get used to it.

Sandra Gulland is the author of the Canadian bestseller Mistress of the Sun as well as the Josephine B. Trilogy, which has sold over a million copies in seventeen languages worldwide. Her fifth novel, The Shadow Queen, will be published in Canada and the US on April 8.

Resource Categories

Blogs on Craft

On the Building Blocks of Fiction

Tips on how to craft vivid scene that allows the reader to experience events right along with the characters.

On Finding Your Big Idea

Insights into the writing process and what a writer's day really looks like, as well as perspectives on research and writing from real life.

On Getting to Know Your Characters

Advice on the many ways you can make your characters come alive on the page for both you and your reader.

On Deciding on Point of View

What is the best perspective from which to tell your story? Writers discuss how they made choices on point of view and voice.

On Choosing Your Situation and Setting

Writers talk about how they use situation and setting to build story and convey emotion.

On Developing Conflict and Structure

From how to work in different genres to finding the real story, writers offer good advice on building conflict and structure.

On Revising

Tips on how to gain distance from your work and to how to re-imagine your next draft.

On Publishing

Writers offer practical advice on the business of writing and promotion, and on the importance of finding a writing community.

On Making a Living as a Writer

Writers offer words of wisdom on living on less.

On The Writer's Life

Writers talk about their life as a writer.

About Gail

Gail's novels have been national and international bestsellers and two have been short-listed for the Giller Prize, among other awards. She works with writers from around the world on her online teaching forums.