Early success, and then reality

Not long after I started writing “No Time To Run,” there was a national contest announced in our local bar association’s magazine. Evidently, I was not the only lawyer in America who was unhappy with his job and longed to leave the billable hours behind to become the next John Grisham. This is not a shock. The often depressing life of practicing law, however, should be the subject for a different blog post. Anyway, my wife showed me the article about the contest and encouraged me to enter.

The rules required the submission of a ten-page excerpt. Luckily I had written about twenty or thirty pages of “No Time To Run.” Thus, ten pages was technically an excerpt of what I had written. I deemed myself eligible for the writing competition because there was nothing in the rules that specifically required the book to have been completed. It only needed an excerpt, which I had technically satisfied. Ten pages is an excerpt of thirty pages. (Did I mention that I was a lawyer?) I sent the passage and my entry form off, and, much to my surprise, a few months later, I received notice that I had won the National Fiction Writing Competition for Lawyers.

One of the prizes was to meet Lisa Scottoline and Steve Horn at a writing conference in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and learn about how to improve my writing and the writer’s life. So my wife and I hopped on a plane and traveled from the midwest to Cape Cod. While at the conference, I also had the opportunity to meet literary agents. This is when reality hit. I was going to a conference, and I fully anticipated that these literary agents were going to want to read my book. I was, after all, the winner of the first place prize. The problem, however, was that my book wasn’t done.

When we landed in Cape Cod, I had about a hundred and fifty pages written. While my excerpt was great, I knew that the rest wasn’t at the same level. While I sat listening to tips from Scottoline and Horn, I felt a little like a fraud. When a literary agent I met during a reception asked for me to send him a copy of my full manuscript and I agreed, that was when I felt like a big fraud.

The next few months after the conference was a whirlwind. I cranked out another two hundred pages. Was it great? No. Was it complete crap? No. It was something in between, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I sent it to the literary agent that I had met at the conference, and he sent back a friendly letter a few weeks later. He complimented my writing. He liked the premise, but he didn’t think it was ready.

When reading his letter, I felt myself nodding my head. He’s right. It’s not ready. I then started revising, and I kept revising. That was the reality.

JD Trafford