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The First Wives Club: Behind the Scenes Peak at Olivia Goldsmith’s Journey

The First Wives Club
Movie Poster

By Steve Harrison

Several things come to mind when authors ask me what separates super-successful authors from everyone else. The top reason is they keep on going in the face of failure.

The late Olivia Goldsmith, bestselling author of the novel The First Wives Club, is an excellent example of that.

I discovered her story devouring Cynthia Kersey's book Unstoppable: 45 Powerful Stories of Perseverance and Triumph from People Just Like You.

Here's how it's described in the book:

Goldsmith said, "For me to write, I had to quit my job, live off my savings, and hope that what I was writing was not a pile of garbage but a salable manuscript. I had worked as a marketing consultant for eleven years and had become the first woman partner. Although I had a successful career, something was missing.”

“The painful divorce I was going through caused me to reevaluate my life. As I thought about what I really wanted to do, a tiny inner voice said, 'You've always loved reading.' That's all it said. I was afraid to admit to myself that I wanted to write. Another voice asked, 'Who do you think you are?'"

Despite on-going battles with self-doubt, Goldsmith persisted.

She committed to "writing five pages a day, no matter what. If they stunk, they'd be five lousy pages, and if they were good, they'd be five good pages. Usually they were lousy."

After two and a half years, she had finally finished the manuscript which she wrote by hand. She dropped it off to be professionally typed. When it returned, it took her three months to find the courage to pick it up.

"My inner voice was telling me, 'No one will ever buy it' and I knew that once I picked it up the hardest part lay ahead--trying to sell it" Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith sent The First Wives Club to eleven publishers. But the only thing she received back were form letters explaining that they didn't read unsolicited manuscripts.

Finally, she got an editor to read it--only to receive a personalized rejection letter explaining that the story was "too unbelievable" and "no one is interested in reading about middle-aged women who get dumped by their husbands."

Goldsmith, however, believed differently. She began calling agents, and after several months, finally found one to represent her. He insisted that she change the manuscript to make the characters more sympathetic.

He told Goldsmith to give the first wife a cat with leukemia, the second wife a mentally disabled daughter, and the third wife a baby that died.

She was strongly opposed to making these changes, but after thinking about it for a long time, she relented. After all, she figured "He's the expert." The agent sent it to his best contacts at various publishing houses. They all rejected it.

"I was very depressed at that point," Goldsmith says. "But then something exciting happened. An unpublished manuscript had gone out to Hollywood where it was discovered by Todd Harris who believed in it. He sent it to some producers he knew.

Soon, the CEO of Paramount Pictures bought the rights to The First Wives Club. She liked everything about the book except for three things: the cat with leukemia, the mentally disabled daughter, and the baby that died.

Goldsmith made the changes and it was published by Simon & Schuster. The book became a bestseller and the movie was one of the biggest box office hits when it came out.

Goldsmith concludes, "My experience taught me a lesson that I'll never forget: As long as you believe in yourself and your own vision, you have something. When you give up that, you are personally bankrupt."

What if Goldsmith had listened to the voices of doubt that told her she was crazy to try to make it as a writer? What if she hadn't been committed to writing five pages a day? What if she had let the response of the publishers discourage her and stopped there? What if she hadn't been willing to spend months looking for a literary agent?

Nothing would have happened.

So what about you? What's the vision you need to recommit to? Whether it's finishing your book, making your book a bestseller, landing a major media appearance, or getting into a major corporation the answer is the same: never quit.

Here's a quote I've loved for the past 20 years. Whenever I'm thinking of giving up, it haunts me with its truth:

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." --Calvin Coolidge

Have you been taking your foot off the accelerator lately? Have you turned off the engine and pulled out the key? Then there's only one thing to do. Get back in the car and start driving.

You won't have the best, unless you give your best.

Register for the Teleseminar on Thursday: What Rich Authors Know That Poor Author’s Don’t and discover how to make a nice living from your book(s) selling as few as 10,000 copies.