Monday, November 2, 2020

Where Do I Begin? by Annette M. Irby


On October 20, 2020, one of my publishing dreams came true. A team of fellow authors and I published a Christmas novella compilation together. (see below)

Probably twenty years ago now, I spent holiday seasons reading Barbour Publishing’s four-in-one novella compilations. I loved them—historicals. Contemporaries. Small-town, countryside. Homey. Romantic. Christmassy. These collections became a part of my holiday tradition. They inspired me, creatively.

And I dreamed of one day being a member of the team who published a novella collection.

I had no idea how long I’d have to wait.Within a few years, I met with a Barbour author who agreed to pitch a four-in-one to a publisher. It wouldn’t be a Christmas compilation, but I didn’t mind. I was too thrilled to be on a team with established authors, pitching to a well-respected editor.

Unfortunately, our project didn’t get picked up.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Sometimes, we don’t know where to begin. Say, I’ve just decided to become a novelist. Say I don’t know the different genres and readers’ expectations around each genre. Say I was brand new to this arena. What advice would I give to someone like that?

Speaking as someone who also began at the beginning and now has over fifteen years’ editing experience, several published books, including a series of full-length novels, one of which was an award-winner, here’s my advice:

* Begin at the beginning. And don’t despise small beginnings. If you feel a desire to write. Do it! Make time. Dive in.

* Become a student of writing craft. Study what you read. Simply by reading and enjoying those compilations, I picked up on the pacing and other elements that set novellas apart. Writing novellas came easier because I’d become very familiar.

* Study writing craft books. I have shelves and shelves of books on writing from trusted sources. When I discover a weakness in my writing, I find resources I can study to find answers. There are writing how-tos on nearly every subject.

* Join writing organizations. This was key for me. Surrounded by fellow writers, at all levels, I soaked up everything I could. One night at our local meeting the speaker said to start small. If you want to publish novels, begin by publishing articles or devotionals. Gain writing credits. Learn how to write for a publication, please the editor, follow through, do rewrites, face rejection. I followed her advice, found smaller publications I could pitch to, studied what they wanted, and submitted articles. What followed were several publications in their magazines. I learned so much from this process, while I added to my resume.

* Attend workshops/classes/conferences. As a Christian fiction writer, I became a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, or ACFW. I made multiple connections by attending their annual conferences for several years. Eventually, I served on the faculty as an acquisitions editor. Surrounded by fellow writers, we spent time learning, growing, networking, worshiping, and celebrating friends’ contest wins. Even during COVID-19, you can attend workshops and conferences online.

* Enter contests. Many times you’ll get feedback from the experienced judges. See what you can use, and try to be open to learning.

* Join a critique group. Find fellow writers who will be honest and kind. Provide feedback for them while they give you their opinions. Grow together. Encourage each other. Pray for each other. Keep growing. Keep writing.

I’ve learned a lot since that four-in-one pitch I mentioned above. I’ve befriended many, many writing friends and editors. I’m so grateful! Self-publishing is now a viable option, and our team was able to see this year’s project to completion.

What about you: What are your writing dreams? How many have you seen come true? What advice would you give to a new writer, starting out.

Advice for writers who are just starting out. #amwriting #authorlife @annettemirby


A Christmas Duet: a novella
A Christmas Duet: A novella - Annette M. Irby

Following a breakup, professional cellist Kate Fleming’s well of inspiration has run dry. Her musical ensemble is counting on her to write several cello and piano compositions for their next album. She’s rented a beautiful beach house on Whidbey Island for the Christmas season. But the atmosphere may not be inspiring enough.

Church music director Zach Tillmon would love to book a professional musician for the upcoming Christmas program. His number-one choice is out of reach. But perhaps the newcomer wouldn’t mind sharing her talents with the congregation.
When these two perform together, sparks fly. But their lives aren’t settled, so a romance is out of the question. Or is it? Join them near picturesque Puget Sound at Christmastime for a delightfully musical love story.

Find "A Christmas Duet" in the novella compilation: Melodies of Christmas Love. 
Melodies of Christmas Love: boxed set
Melodies of Christmas Love: Boxed Set
Titles included: 
The Heart of Christmas by Lynnette Bonner,
Love on a Mission in Millcreek by JoAnn Durgin, The Bells of New Cheltenham by Chautona Having, 
A Christmas Duet by Annette M. Irby, 
A Night Divine by Dawn Kinzer, 
To Hear the Angels Sing by Lesley Ann McDaniel, and Prairie Rose by Sylvia Stewart.

Annette M. Irby has enjoyed writing since her teen years. If she’s not writing, she’s reading for review, editing for clients, or perhaps out gardening. Her book, Finding Love on Whidbey Island, Washington, finaled in the 2020 Cascade Award contest. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Married twenty-nine years, she lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more here on her Seriously Write Page
* photo credit: pixabay


  1. Being published can be a long process. Patience is definitely needed. Acceptance letters and rejections letters will come and go. Our focus in writing should not be on ourselves, but on sharing the love of God with others. :-) Thank you for these great tips.

    1. I'm so grateful for those early mentors who helped so many of us hang in there by offering practical advice. Write on, Melissa.

  2. Thanks for your wise advice. I've been writing seriously for two years and am enjoying learning as much as possible from conferences, critique partners, craft books, blogs (like this one), authors, and other experts. It's a journey for sure, but I'm buckled in for the ride!

    1. Hi Deena! Good for you. That commitment will see you far. I'm so glad you're finding the resources you need as you go. Glad Seriously Write is among them. I sincerely wish you all the best in your writing journey!

  3. Great advice, Annette!

    Along with focusing on the work and getting published, I think it's also important to enjoy the journey and not rush things.

    I'd also advise that friendships developed with other writers can be huge blessings. Don't miss out on those relationships. Sometimes only other writers can understand our passion, our process, and our challenges.

    1. Good tips, Dawn. We can get too focused on the goal and lose sight of the "here and now." And yes! Friendships with fellow writers are such a gift! I'm so grateful for your friendship all these years, and that we're in the Melodies of Christmas Love boxed set together. We started out writing buddies and became dear friends. That's a great example of a blessing on the journey.


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