Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Five Ps of Writing: Be Persistent

by Mel Menzies

Have you ever felt that everything – everything! – was against you?  That you might as well give up?  Bin the laptop?  Shred the WIP?  Chuck the whole lot out of the window and take up – I dunno – darning socks as a hobby?

I’m sure you must have.  But if you haven’t yet – be warned!  Here’s what happened to me.


With a Regent Street agent, and a number of books commissioned and published by traditional publishers, I gave up writing at the height of my career in order to support my husband’s ailing business.  It was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever been called upon to do - but though there were those who questioned my trust in God and thought I was wrong to do so, I knew my sacrifice was his bidding.

Nevertheless, the yearning to resume the one thing I felt defined me never diminished.  With a full-time job and family commitments, retirement offered my only hope.  1st January, 2012 was my target.  New Year was to mark my new beginning as an author.  The race was on.


Except that my father died two days later, and I spent six months undertaking Probate.  No writing took place.  Then in August, that year, we moved house, a downsize that involved the disposal of half our possessions, plus a good deal of building work.  Again, no writing was done.  Ever hopeful, I returned to the start-line.  2013 would, surely, be the start of my new career?

It seemed not!   In fact, it was not until 2014 that I had a completed manuscript, a novel – and a new focus.
The Marriage Mender was in the mystery genre but, instead of being solved by a D.I., the protagonist was a counsellor, a quirky non-believer by the name of Evie Adams.  Written in a similar style to Jodi Picoult’s books, and with Exeter Cathedral Green as the location, much like Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series, this book was to re-launch my career.


Except that it didn’t!  With my first rejection in decades, I might have given up.  Only I happened upon a quotation by Marianne Williamson in which she asked: Who are you not to shine?  Convinced that this was God’s directive for me, I rewrote parts of the book and retitled it Time to Shine.

Then catastrophe struck!  In August 2014, following years of bullying and persecution, something happened that might have closed the door forever. 

At my sister’s behest, my 95 year old mother had been staying with me for a few days.  She  had arrived in some distress having been ‘marched to the bank’ and told by my brother-in-law that she had to hand over control of her finances to my sister.  The bank clerk spoke to my mother privately, and refused to carry out these demands.  My mother’s front door key was then taken from her.

On the day she was due to return to the seaside house she and my father had built nearly 60 years earlier, I emailed to be sure someone would be in when we returned her.  By way of reply I was told not to bother to take her back; she was no longer welcome to live there, and the door would be locked.

My mother’s distress was unimaginable.  As was mine.  Two months later, having had to consult solicitors in order to gain access to my mother’s possessions (and been informed that what had occurred was a criminal offence under the 1977 Protection from Eviction Act) my mother had to give up her dream of living and dying in her home.


My manuscript might appear to you to be small fry by comparison, but to me it epitomised something far more.  Where was God in all of this, I asked myself?  Did he care?  Did he even exist?

He did!  And he proved it.  A commission for an article in The Reader magazine was followed by requests from two unknown journalists who wished to interview me for Devon Life and National Geographic.  Somehow, I knew that God was telling me that this publicity was a push from him to publish my book.  Deep within me was the conviction that if I failed to put my trust in God, it would, indeed, all be over.

Self-publishing seemed to be the answer.  But it costs!  How could I possibly afford the outlay required to purchase my own books?  And how could I sell them?    What did I know about marketing?  How could I possibly approach bookshops?

Putting my trust in God, I went ahead.    Further endorsements followed.  A forty-minute interview on Premier Radio.  Five star reviews on Amazon.   Yet still my doubts persisted.


My husband and I read Jeff Lucas’ Bible notes each morning.  The passages from Genesis urging Abram to set off on a journey to an unknown land seemed more than relevant.  Abram’s fear was mine, too.

Our readings continued.  Sarai was promised a baby.  Scornful, she laughed at God’s promise!  At my age, she thought. Her sentiments echoed my own.  Had I been deluding myself?  Had I imagined God’s intervention in urging me to publish my book?  Could this really be seen as the re-launch of my writing career?  Was it realistic to expect the birth of my baby after so long a lapse? 


Along came Malcolm Down!  Publishing Manager at Authentic Media for nearly sixteen years, he had set up his own business, Malcolm Down Publishing in 2014.   He offered me a traditional contract, and he’s taken on my book.  With Joining The Dots as his distributors, Time to Shine is in the process of making its way into bookshops as I write this.  And, leaning on the promise God made to Sarah that her baby would be the firstborn of a whole nation, I’m well on the way with the second book in the Evie Adams series, Chosen.

The rest is history in the making.   Like Abraham, despite my fears, I’ve travelled to an unknown country and found my niche.  Like Sarah, my doubts have been confounded and I’m about to give birth.  By the time you read this, Time to Shine will have been published (26th June, 2015).

You can buy a copy direct from my website  From Eden, Waterstones or any Christian bookshop.  Or, indeed, from Amazon.  Be sure to buy the second edition ISBN: 9781910786055

Merrilyn Williams, is the author of a number of traditionally published biographies, one of which was a bestseller, and she writes fiction under her maiden name, Mel Menzies.

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. So much resonates with me - determination and persistence is vital for us to see our 'babies' make it to publication. Thanks for the encouragement to carry on :)

    1. Thank you Claire. You, and dozens of other ACW members, have encouraged me on my journey.

  2. Merrilyn I just love the way you write - it so encouraging to fledgling writers that your share your journey so honestly. Set backs are all part and parcel of the journey the point is to keep on going. So glad that you did, loking forward to some down time on holkiday with your book in hand. Thank you for this encouragment :)

    1. Thanks Tania. Your presence and prayerfulness in my local ACW group have, of course, been a reciprocal encouragement to me. Bless you.

  3. Mel, this is magnificently encouraging for a 'come-to-it-late-in-life' writer like me who feels her only hope of getting a book published is to (somehow) master the art of doing it herself - gulp!! I love blogging and have reams of poetry to sift through for a potential anthology, so this post has reawakened my tremulous belief that I can one day finally call myself a writer without feeling a bit of a fraud. Thank you! And well done on your perseverance, patience and persistence in faith, life and writing. It is truly inspiring. :)

  4. Thank you, Joy. Throughout the years I've 'known' you as a Facebook friend, you have been a joy in the lives of everyone with whom you've interacted. Joy by name. Joy by nature.If your blogging and poetry are inspiring others, then I'd say you can call yourself a writer without being a fraud. You're using the gifts God has given you, in order to reveal his love - and that's all that matters. Blessings.