A New Novelist’s Journey to Publication

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By Frank DiBianca

Believing we all learn from our fellow travelers’ writing experiences, I thought I’d outline mine in hopes that they may be useful to other new fiction writers.

I remember publishing in my school’s fourth-grade “newspaper” a flash sci-fi story, The Unknown Element, about a new atomic element with mysterious properties. When the teachers said they didn’t understand it, I knew I was off to a career in high-energy physics!

In college, the editor of the campus newspaper asked me for an article on chess. All I remember was that it contained a rough calculation of the number of possible chess games. Result: a one followed by a hundred and thirty or so zeros.

Over the years, I wrote several more poems and stories. The semi-biographical fiction novella, In Praise of Mrs. White, was a present to my wife and writing partner, Kay, on one of her big birthdays. I had one copy printed and bound in red leather with gold lettering and a hubbed spine. The printer was from Italy, and the longer I spoke to him in Italian, the more features I got and the lower the printing price went.

A decade ago, I undertook my first major fiction-writing project: a slightly speculative 120,000-word fiction mammoth called The Centaur. I hadn’t learned many modern writing techniques, so it had, e.g., an omniscient narrator, and no attribution beats, just tags. The manuscript was written in about two months of six-hour days. I outlined it at a Christian writers conference to an editor-in-chief, who liked the premise and told me to send it to him. So, with nary a suggestion or correction from any editor or coach, I emailed him my prize creation. Months later, he emailed that he and an assistant editor were “still trying to decide where to slice into my manuscript,” but he’d “get back to me.” I guess they never decided where to go in.

Rather than find a new creative outlet, I decided to get serious about writing. I’d just written a 15,000-word novelette and took a preliminary book proposal for it to a writer’s conference in 2018. Several professionals I spoke with said they liked the premise, but I should expand the story into a novel. By this time, Kay’s first novel, The Watch on the Fencepost, had been professionally edited and submitted to publishers. She helped me with my manuscript, and I worked hard on turning the story into a novel.

Back at the same conference in 2019, I scheduled meetings with the acquisition editors representing five publishers. The morning of my meetings, I learned they had a prayer room. I went to it and prayed to the Lord for help in finding an interested acquisition editor. By late that afternoon, four of my meetings resulted in acceptances to receive my proposal after it was finished. Praise the Lord!

I went home and was blessed to find three editors, specializing in developmental editing, copy editing and proofreading, and book proposal development. Without them, this story would have had a different ending. For over a year under their direction, I wrote and modified passages and scenes in the novel. I also wrote/modified a new book proposal. And finally, in late 2020, I sent the finished proposal to the four acquisition editors.

Surprised and thrilled, I received two publication contracts for my new novel and have signed with one of the publishers.

In my quest to publish a Christian novel I’ve met scores of wonderful people and learned that getting published is not a piece of cake. But if you’re in a position to engage the proper professionals and work your tail off writing in service to the Lord, it can be done.

Getting published without editors is like chewing nails without tungsten carbide teeth. @fdibianca #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Frank A. DiBianca is a fiction writer and retired university professor. He received a Ph.D. in high-energy physics from Carnegie-Mellon University and later worked in biomedical engineering. Frank lives in Memphis with his author-wife, Kay, (The Watch on the Fencepost, CrossLink; Dead Man’s Watch, Wordstar). He is now finalizing his new novel under contract with a Christian publisher.

Comments 7

    1. Thanks for that kind observation, Barbara. I think we need need three ingredients for successful Christian writing: the Hand of the Lord, great editors, and hard, creative work.

  1. Frank,
    I really appreciate all the help and suggestions you’ve given me including recommending a really good editor to help me improve my latest story. Many Thanks. You’re encouragement has meant the world to me.

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