Russian dolls
Michelle Harrison Michelle Harrison



Posted on July 24, 2015, tagged as Writing, getting published, rejection

It’s been a while since my last blog, due to a tight deadline with limited time to write thanks to the lovely little toddler in my life. However, I’ve come up with an idea for something relatively quick and to the point which is hopefully informative (and inspiring!) to those of you who are also writers.


This blog is all about numbers. Thankfully not the adding, subtracting or weird-stuff-with-squiggly-lines that I don’t understand. I leave all that to my accountant. These numbers actually tell a story; of how I write and my journey to publication. Who knew numbers could be fun?* Here goes.


• Years it took to complete my first novel: 5.

A year to write the first draft, and four more years of rewrites/tweaks while I searched for an agent.


• Years it took me to find an agent: 4.


•Number of agents to ask for a full manuscript: 2.

When sending your story off to agents and publishers, they generally ask for the first three chapters plus an outline. If they like what they see, they’ll ask for the rest (full manuscript).


• Times I got rejected: 25 (approx.)

I kept as many rejection letters as possible, including one from a very rude agent who scrawled a note on my own covering letter and sent it back. Now, I’m all for recycling, but come on! If you’re going to crush someone’s dream and send them into a pit of snot and despair then at least afford them the dignity of headed notepaper.




• Rejections after I had an agent: 8.

Yes, having an agent isn’t the end of the dreaded rejection letter. After brushing up my manuscript upon the advice of the lovely agent who took me on as a client, it was then submitted to 11 publishers. Eight rejected, three wanted to meet me and discuss the novel further. Of those three, two wanted to take the story in a different direction. One loved it as it was, and wanted a sequel. Bingo!


• Years I worked full time in other jobs while writing on the side (before and after publication): 7.


• Years I have made my living solely as a writer: 4.


• Number of words I write daily: 500-1000.

Sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes nothing at all. Sometimes work isn’t actually writing the book, it’s research, thinking time, post-it notes, and repeatedly removing a cat from the comfy bed/bottom-licking station it has made on your manuscript.




• Number of chapters I write a week: 1, on average.

I have no idea how that compares to other writers but I imagine it’s pretty slow. It works for me, though.


• Books I am currently contracted to write: 3.

Two middle grades (age 9-12), one of which I am working on now, and one young adult which I am about six chapters into but is on hold.


• Number of languages my books have been translated into: 16.


• Number of words required to a novel (as per my contract): 80,000 approx.

Yes, that scares me, too.

So there we have it. If there are any numbers related questions you’d like to ask (with the exception of how much I earn) feel free to leave a comment.




*I apologise to any maths enthusiasts who may be reading this. I genuinely wish I was better at it and, well, just more interested. But I’m not, and I hate it. Sorry.



4 comments on “Numbers”

  • Thomas says:

    Maths is best left to the Mathematicians. 🙂

    Out of curiousity what is your definition of YA books in terms of age? You define middle grade quite precisely. I’m guessing YA is anything above that but does that have an upper age-limit?

    • mm Michelle says:

      I’d say YA is roughly ages 13-16. HOWEVER – I’m not really a fan of labelling books as suitable for a certain age, as with younger readers, ability and maturity varies so greatly.

      I’d certainly not want to put off older readers from reading my ‘younger’ books as I know from the emails I get that they are enjoyed by people of all ages and often those between the age of 12 – 15.

      I was asked at a recent event how I differentiate the style for the two audiences and my answer was that my style stays the same but it’s the content that changes.

  • Ayesha says:

    Hey Michelle! I’ve been a big fan of your books ever since Thirteen Treasure came out. I’d say I’d fancy myself a writer to sound oh so amazing but to be honest I can’t go writing more than 5-6 chapters of any idea that I have! Do you have any advice for struggling writers like me? Or should I concentrate on other things like poetry or writing editorials?

    • mm Michelle says:

      Try to form an idea of the beginning, middle and end before you start a story, especially a few juicy bits that you can’t wait to get to. This helps to keep me on track. Otherwise, write the bits you want to write, then gradually piece it together – you don’t have to write each chapter in order. If it still seems too daunting then concentrate on short stories for a while until you find an idea you’re passionate about enough to see through. Good luck!

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