A Long Hard Slog Up the Middle: A Writer's Journey Part 2

As I was saying last time, I finished my first full-length novel in '86, won my first writing award in '91, and signed my first book contract in '94. Since then, I've written over 150 books which have been read by over 10 million people. But I almost gave it all up in the late '90s.

After months of waiting to hear good news, my wife and I were considering our options and wishing we’d sold the family home and moved to Seattle where I was working at the time, having gone back to full-time work other than writing.

Thankfully though after months of waiting, I heard got good news from my agent. The publisher wanted to meet with me. The publisher wanted to discuss my ideas.

During the meeting, it was clear that the publisher liked my ideas but I’d need to provide sample chapters, expand the series details, have more face-to-face meetings, and generally do more to convince them. The hard part that followed required a leap of faith. I couldn’t do all that was required of me, in the time that was required of me, and keep working full-time elsewhere. I had to quit the day job and proceed, or keep the day job and let the dream die.

I chose the dream. I gave notice, worked my last two weeks while I continued developing the materials needed. A few weeks in, I learned the publisher had one idea for the series and I had another. Worse, the concepts were radically different.

I thought for sure disaster was ahead. Thankfully, the publisher did eventually sign me to a two-book contract. A contract to do things their way—and not my way.

However, the sample chapters I’d written over the past weeks were for my series concept and not theirs, so I kept writing the books my way. For this publisher, it was something unheard of for any writer to go outside the standard or to deviate from fixed standards. But my editors loved the final chapters I submitted, and I completed the work in its entirety ahead of schedule—so many weeks ahead of schedule they didn't quite know what to do, and this also was something else that was unheard of.

In fact, I was so far ahead of schedule, that the book’s publication dates were moved back several months. Those several months proved critical, as they allowed the publisher to showcase the books at a major industry event when the publisher otherwise would not have been able to. And the books done my way were smash hits at the event.

The rest as they say is history. Those contracts were followed by two other contracts from other publishers that I’d contacted previously. Suddenly, I was back in the publishing business.

Looking back now after I these years, I know exactly what I would have given up, had I not chased the dream. That little series I started? That series would eventually go on to become one of the biggest blockbuster series for the publisher, with $100M in worldwide retail sales—and counting.

Those first books I wrote in that series? They set the foundation for the entire series and became critically-acclaimed, award-winning bestsellers.

Sometimes in life you must take that leap of faith. Sometimes you must believe in yourself when no one else does. Sometimes you must follow the wrong path to find the right one.

Talk to you next time,

Robert Stanek


  1. I found you through goodreads.

    Bravo for you for setting your own path. You're the only person besides myself that used the word slogging & I like that.

    Congratulations on all your critical acclaim. It has to feel pretty awesome.

    Now that I've discovered a new author (to me) I've got LOTS of reading material ahead. You are going to the top of my TBR Lists.

    If you ever post any 'freebies' in Kindle on Amazon, please give me a heads up. Thank you.

    Happy Easter. Injoy:) Carolyn