Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Just Believe: Making New Year's Resolutions into Reality

It's New Year's Day, a time for starting those resolutions. In the spirit of new beginnings, I thought I'd share a personal story of a very special resolution.

In 2004, a writer friend of mine, Suzanne McMinn, suggested that I set up my own website. At the time, I was unpublished and struggling to sell a historical romance set in medieval Ireland. I was a little leery of websites, but she pointed out I was at a point in my career when I had plenty of time to create it, and I might as well start thinking about what I wanted. Plus, when I sold my first book, it would be one less thing to worry about.

That fall, I sent off a proposal to Harlequin Mills and Boon and decided that a website wouldn't hurt. After all, who was going to see it? As I played with the website, I added book blurbs and pretended to be a "real author." I even did a mock-up book cover and taped it onto one of my paperbacks. Later, I jokingly set up a web page for my medieval Irish warriors, complete with book titles and blurbs. And suddenly it struck me, that my warriors could become real, but only if I believed in myself.

That New Year in 2005, I made up my mind that I was going to do everything within my power to become a published author. But the key was believing it would happen. As I finished editing the full manuscript requested by Mills and Boon, I told myself that this book would be read by thousands of people. I couldn't afford to make mistakes. Before I mailed the book, I made sure that I had done everything I could to make this manuscript The One That Would Sell.

I couldn't realistically make a New Year's Resolution I would sell a book. After all, that was beyond my control. The only thing I could control was the quality of my writing and continually trying to become better. So that year, I resolved to Act As If I Were Published. It meant writing every day, revising, editing, and behaving like a professional. Instead of haunting the mailbox and stalking the phone, I reminded myself that published authors keep writing. And so I finished two more books.

When my first revision request arrived from Mills and Boon that May, I was stunned and thrilled at the same time. An editor was taking the time to work with me, and I was going to do whatever it took to bring the book up to the quality level she wanted. I had one shot—and I wasn't going to miss.

I mailed the revisions and kept writing. I even hired a professional web designer to revamp my website, as a way of celebrating. The editor e-mailed with more revisions that September, and I understood that I had someone willing to help me. I wasn't there yet, but she believed I could get there. I worked harder than ever on the book, pouring blood, sweat, and determination on every page.

That New Year, in 2006, I bought an extra bottle of champagne. Because I believed I was going to sell. I think my motivation and attitude started to flow into the universe because when I joined a local chapter of Romance Writers of America, they mistakenly printed me in the directory as a published author. I smiled to myself, because I believed it wasn't a misprint—it was just a matter of time. Sure enough, in September of 2006, I got The Call from my editor, wanting to buy the manuscript. It became Her Irish Warrior, my first book.

Since then, I've published two more books with Mills and Boon, the most recent being Her Warrior King. My medieval Irish warrior series became a reality, and I think it was truly because I had faith in my dream. It wasn't just a New Year's resolution—it was a personal promise.

When you set out to do your New Year's Resolutions this year, make goals that you truly believe in. Act as if you'll succeed. And who knows what might happen? Your dream just might come true.

As a fun way to start the new year, tell me what your dream is. I'll do a random drawing from the comments and choose a winner to receive a signed copy of Her Warrior King. Happy New Year!

Michelle Willingham is the author of three novels: Her Irish Warrior, The Warrior's Touch, and Her Warrior King. Visit her website at: for excerpts and more details.


ruth said...

My dream is to travel to Italy and have the most wonderful vacation ever. The land of romance, history and culture beckons me.

anne said...

My dream would be to obtain the dream job which would help me to fulfil my aspirations.

ellie said...

A dream that I have always had but could never complete was to travel. I have never had the opportunity but it would be like a dream come true to travel to far off lands and experience this adventure.

michellewillingham said...

Ruth--If you get a chance to visit Pompeii, it's amazing. My husband and I took a day trip from Rome and just loved it.

Anne--good luck! What's your dream job?

Ellie--I love to travel also. I'm thinking of setting up a savings account just for travel. :) Where would you like to go?

alissa said...

A dream to have a beach house to escape to winter and summer. This has been a wish that I have always longed for. A necessary and important part of the quality of life.

pearl said...

A dream to have ideal health. To me this is the most important ingredient in living a wonderful life.

Nathalie said...

Becoming a specialist... I am a med student still!

Lily said...

I would like to do a grand tour of Europe someday!

robynl said...

My dream is for dh and I to have a great retirement, both having retired last year. It is for us to enjoy many things together such as a train ride through the Rocky Mountains in Canada(something we both want to do).

Maureen said...

My dream is to travel around the world, learn to take spectacular photographs and learn to quilt.

Stacy Dawn said...

Happy New Year, Michelle!

You're post hit home as parallel to what I'm trying to accomplish with my weight and health for this time I took it as a lifestyle change--one I was ready for and willing to work hard to achieve.

So my dream this year is to finally lose the weight that has been haunting me for years and years. I started Weight Watchers in October and, like you said, really believed that this time I could do it and so far I've lost 22lbs....great inspiration to carry me into 2008!

Melissa McClone said...

Great post, Michelle, and a wonderful way to ring in the New Year!

My dream for 2008 is to get into good enough (and healthy) shape to climb Mount Hood in the spring and 5.10 routes in rock climbing this summer.

petite said...

My dream is to travel outside of my comfort zone. To explore and meet with new people, places and revel in this wonder.

Fiona Lowe said...

Michelle, Happy New Year! I just popped by to say that, really! Oh and to say how much I love your books:-) Wishing you all the best for 2008

Anonymous said...

I actually had a taste of my dream and just have to find a way to make it reality. Last year, I worked as an editor for an e-publisher. The company folded (one of many), but I have to say that I loved the freelance job. My dream is to be financially secure enough to allow me to pursue editing full-time. But for now, I keep my skills honed by taking on some projects from authors I met during my time with the publisher.

Wolfy said...

My dream is to be free enough to travel to places that have been on a list I have had for years. Who knows maybe this year is the year.

Estella said...

My dream is to continue to be healthy!

michellewillingham said...

Alissa--I would LOVE a beach house. Especially a place where family could gather together and relax.

Pearl--Amen to that. Health means everything, doesn't it? Here's hoping that yours is well in 2008!

Nathalie--best of luck in your medical studies!

Lily--any country in particular you'd like to visit?

Robynl--the train trip sounds wonderful. :) Here's hoping for you both!

Maureen--a trip around the world sounds fabulous. :) I've quilted myself and it's very addictive.

Stacy--way to go on your accomplishments! Keep it up!

Melissa--best of luck with climbing Mt. Hood!

Jen--keep checking Publishers Marketplace. You never know when the perfect editorial job will pop up. Good luck!

Fiona--wishing you all the best in 2008 also! Your Medical books for HQ are wonderful. :)

Petite--best of luck with the traveling dream!

Cryna--hope your dream to travel comes true!

Estella--Wishing you continued good health!

michellewillingham said...

And the winner is...Nathalie! Nathalie, e-mail me your mailing address to michelle AT michellewillingham dot com and I'll send you copy of HER WARRIOR KING! Thanks to all for entering!

Cherie J said...

A dream for me is to get away with my hubby wihtout our 1 year old and 4 year old and just have some romantic "us" time.

Nathalie said...

Thanks Michelle... I just e-mailed you :)