Monday, August 8, 2011

Guest Author: Dennis Danziger's How to Write and Publish a Novel in Only 12 Years

How to Write and Publish a Novel in Only 12 Years

Writing my first book, Daddy, The Diary of an Expectant Father, was a breeze. From the day I was married until the day my son was born, I wrote one page day. Eleven and a half months later I had a kid and a book.  My agent sold my manuscript on the 33rd try, and after I received my advance and paid my taxes, I handed the rest over to a publicist who booked me on Good Morning America and the Phil Donahue Show.
My book was excerpted in magazines, written up in US Today, and translated into German and Korean.  I was a TV writer at the time and was hired to write a sit-com pilot based on my book.   
A decade later I was divorced, teaching public school and responsible for  200 students, leaving me little time to write.   Divorced and ready to re-enter the dating pool I decided to keep a journal focusing on my proactive search for the last great love of my life, who I imagined I would marry and who would be become a loving stepmother to my two teenage children.
Off I went seeking romance and writing about it. I figured my worst case scenario was that I would not find the woman for whom I was searching; but I might end up with another book.
And I did. But not the way I planned.  
After a year, neither the romance nor the literature was working out.  I gave up on both projects.

Weeks later, a high school friend wrote and informed me that he had given my email address to a beautiful, single woman who he had been friends with 25 years earlier. She wrote and suggested we correspond. 

Amy, my new correspondent, lived in Ottawa, Canada and believed that I lived in NYC, within visiting distance. But I lived in LA, a mere 3200 miles away. I figured there was no harm in continuing our on-line relationship since I rarely fly and doubted we would ever meet.       
Fifteen months later Amy Friedman, whose syndicated children’s column, Tell Me a Story, has been running for 20 years, moved to LA and we married. 
A month after “I do,” I showed her my dating journal and asked if she thought there was a book in it. “Absolutely,” she said, “except you should turn it into a novel.”
“I’ve never written a novel,” I said.
“I have.” And she gave me a tutorial in fiction. 

Five years later, I completed my dark, romantic comedy, A Short History of a Tall Jew. I wrote some mornings before work. Some afternoons on my lunch break. Some evenings when I did not have too many papers to grade. Always on weekends and holidays. Six months after completing my fourth draft, a NYC agent agreed to represent me.    Six months and 26 rejections later he quit representing me. Every winter break and summer for the next five years I re-wrote. 

I could not imagine dying with this manuscript unpublished. So I did something I had vowed I would never do: self-publish.

That process took another five months.      

My first reading was held in May 2010 at The Village Bookstore in Pacific Palisades, CA and since then I have been invited to read/discuss my book at the Houston and Ft. Myers Jewish Book Festivals. I have given readings in bookstores, theatres, salons and saloons in LA, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Cleveland, Ohio, at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan on a February night when it snowed 19 inches and at a pool party/fundraiser in Northridge, California. I have received positive reviews (and one really ugly negative review). I have been invited to write for blogs like this one. I have been signed by an agent who is trying to sell the TV/movie rights. A blog I wrote for Huffington Post’s Divorce section quotes heavily from my novel.  One can buy my novel on and on Kindle.

From the day I put pen to paper until the day I held a copy of the A Short History in my hand, 12 years elapsed.

I have yet not recouped my investment; maybe I will; maybe I won’t. 

But other than running the AIDS Marathon (very slowly) in Hawaii, at age 53, writing and publishing my novel is the coolest thing I have ever done. And I am glad that when my agent quit sending it out, I overcame the depression that always comes with such rejection, and pushed on.  

The difference between allowing my manuscript waste away in a desk drawer and preparing for the three readings I have booked this fall was never, never, never quitting.  

Purchase your copy


Anonymous said...

Mr. Danziger,
I really do hope that one day I will become a successful writer as you have become. I also want to thank you for everything you have done for me. Not only are you a great writer and an amazing teacher, but your also my role model.
Courtney Comer

Hollye Dexter said...

You are a wonderful ( and funny, which helps) inspiration to all of us long-suffering, self-doubting writers.
I LOVED your book and am glad you never gave up!
-Hollye Dexter

Anonymous said...

I loved your book and you are a great storyteller. See you soon.

Pam said...

You are absolutely an inspiration. I've allowed upheaval in the last couple of years to take me out of my writing, and used it as an excuse for not staying with the tough memories and emotions that make for honest writing--and real living, for that matter. This essay has both shown me my excuses for what they are, and given me a needed nudge to focus on writing (and reading, and doing) the stuff that really matters to me. Suddenly I feel more energized. Congratulations on a wonderful book, and thanks for sharing your experience.

Amy Wallen said...

You're always a beacon, Dennis. It's the positive attitude that will continue to bring you the success you deserve. You're one of my very favorite people. Keep that sense of humor! And we need to get you down here to do a Savory Salon!

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