The Missing Girl and my road to publication
by Jenny Quintana
When I was a child, I loved reading and writing stories and I dreamed about being an author. At every opportunity, I wrote letters and stories and sent them to my local newspaper, and then when I was twelve, inspired by Agatha Christie, I wrote my first novel. The dream stopped there. I became an adult and the usual pressures of life got in the way. I was still reading prolifically, doing an English degree and then a teaching qualification in London, but teaching, earning money and then living abroad all became more important. Writing was pushed back – it was only a dream and anyway, I wasn’t good enough to be a writer. What did I have to say and who would want to listen to me?
Things changed again when I had my first child. I decided to give up teaching and worked instead in publishing, becoming a freelance author and writing books for teaching English as a foreign language. But the desire to write fiction wouldn’t go away. I started again, writing short stories some of which won prizes and were published in literary magazines. With more confidence, I began a novel. That’s when I hit the 30,000-word barrier and the familiar sense of self-doubt came creeping back.
Still – I refused to give up. I looked around for different ways to inspire me and discovered Cornerstones. I got in touch with Helen and then sent my manuscript for a critique. The kind, encouraging and expert advice I got back from the editor inspired me to push on to the end. Enthused, I signed up for a workshop run by Helen and Lee Weatherly. I met lots of like-minded people, received plenty of practical and inspiring tips, and felt like I was doing something concrete to help my writing. After that, I sent the finished manuscript back to Cornerstones for a more thorough and overall critique. Again, the advice was professional and encouraging, and eventually an agent took me on. At last, I thought I had made it; this was my moment. Sadly, I was wrong, despite lots of lovely comments from editors, my manuscript was rejected.
What next? I sat back, probably wept, and told myself I had to give up. And then I thought again … I’d had too much positive response to stop now. I wrote another novel, and then another. Neither of them were any good because I was writing too quickly. And then finally, I had the idea for The Missing Girl. It was my fourth novel and this time it was going to be the one. I sent part of it to the Bridport First Novel prize and was overjoyed to be longlisted. Then I decided I needed to shake myself up again, so I did a writing course in London and finally got another agent.
This time when my agent submitted to publishers, The Missing Girl went to auction. It was an amazing moment in my life and when it became Waterstones’s thriller of the month, and crept to the top of their paperback charts, I could hardly believe it had happened.
Now my next novel is almost complete and I still can’t believe how far things have come. For me, success was a long time coming, but never giving up, writing and rewriting, being brave enough to let one novel go and starting again – this was the key to realising a dream and I am grateful for all the support I’ve had along the way.