I started writing seriously on January 15, 2009. Not for publication, but for me. At the time I had a 1 year old, 3 year old, 6 year old and 8 year old, so I stole time when I could. Mostly at night, sacrificing tv. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was sleep deprived, which no doubt fueled my insanity.:)
Six months later, I finished my YA magical realism novel. (Yay! It rocks! I rock!) After a celebratory round of cupcakes, I read it again. And died a little.
It was ROUGH. Terrible, actually. So terrible that even as a baby writer, I KNEW it was terrible. But I didn’t know how to fix it. And the endless tinkering began.
During this time, I was fortunate enough to meet Charles Martin, a high school friend of my husband and a NYT Bestseller author in his own right. He kindly read the first three (awful) chapters and told me to pick up the pace. He suggested I look at my novel from a different angle, maybe start in another place. In hindsight, Charles was SO RIGHT.
Meanwhile, in October 2009, I started Novel No. 2, a YA post-apocalyptic, inspired by a phone call from my husband when he was on a Costa Rican surf trip. Then in February 2010, my husband and I took our first week away from the boys since having babies--to Hawaii, the big island. (GORGEOUS!!!) Inspiration hit, hard, and I wrote 10K of a fresh YA light sci-fi novel (Are you counting? Novel No. 3!) while we were there; 2K on the return flight alone. (I know what you're thinking: bad wife. :D In my defense, it was also a work trip for him so I had plenty of down time to write. Plus, my sweet husband gets my writing addiction. Another reason I love him.:D)
For the next few months, I flitted between books, writing two and tinkering with one. And I worked on my craft. I read blogs, Stephen King’s book On Writing, and just plain read. Books, lots of them. I discovered querying, entered writing contests on Janet Reid’s blog, and realized publication was out there, like a crazy carrot. And I wanted it. I hunkered down with novel number one, slashed and
And the rejections poured in. Mostly form, occasionally personalized. Sometimes they’d arrive in packs, which was especially crushing. That fall, Charles gave me some valuable advice. He told me to put my first book aside, and write something else. It wasn't easy to hear, but again--he was SO RIGHT.
Around the same time, I met local YA writer, Jessie Harrell. She became my hometown CP. It was HUGE. Game-changing. She introduced me to the YA writing community on-line, and she let me critique her WIP, which was a gift. She have me incredible feedback, and soon I realized I’d never truly revised Novel No. 1, just tinkered, and they’re not the same. But it was too late. Novel number one was dead.
Everything --and everyone-- was telling me to move on. Charles, Jessie, and the pile of rejections. And so I did. I put my first book in a drawer, and let it go.*
Flash-forward to February 2011. I had first drafts of two very different books: a YA post-apocalyptic and a YA light SF, and I had to make a call. Which to polish? I chose NIL, my YA light SF. And I got to work.
I went to Backspace Writer’s Conference in May, where I found awesome crit partners Laura Stanford and Tonya Kuper. (That's another crazy story. :D) Also in May, I won a crit from the talented Natalie Whipple (love her!). After Backspace, I revised my opening pages based on agent feedback (revision no. 1). Then I sent my MS out for critique from this fab four. Each gave me constructive feedback, encouragement, and inspiration, which not only helped my MS, it helped me. Especially my confidence, which you need fully intact before you hit the query trenches. (SO GRATEFUL y’all!) And I became a better CP myself.
Based on the crits, I faced revision, again. This one was tougher. Bigger. But worth every difficult minute. After a *slight* initial freakout ("I can't do it!"), I dug deep, added more layers, and in the process, I fell in love with NIL all over again.
Now my MS was shinier than a Christmas tree. NIL was ready. I was ready. Game on. :)
September 2011: NIL queries went out. This time I got requests right away, and within a month I had a R &R from one agent, a big gun. I mulled it over, even as more requests rolled in and the holidays approached. (One of those requests, a partial, was from Jennifer. Woot! *dream agent alert*) One night as I pondered the revision request, a new sub-plot fell into my head, one that pulled pieces together I didn’t even know were missing. I wrote furiously for the next month, weaving in the new plot line, not sure whether I was addressing the agent’s R & R concerns but knowing this last revision was how the novel was meant to be. (This final revision was revision number 3). Meanwhile, I got more requests. Rejections too. I checked my inbox obsessively. The holidays were S-L-O-W.
But then January arrived. I got an email from Jennifer that she loved the first 50 pages, and could I please send the rest? Uh, YES! She was one of the very first agents I queried on NIL, having loved her interview on the Mother.Write.(Repeat.) blog. Fingers crossed, I sent Jennifer the revised version, which was also in the hands of seven other agents, including the one who requested the R & R. A few weeks later I got "the call" from Jennifer, almost three years to the day after I began writing again. Her enthusiasm for NIL blew me away. We clicked, and I felt she “got” NIL. I notified the other agents considering NIL, including the one who’d requested the revision. (That agent passed BTW; our visions for the book didn’t mesh, and that's okay). That week was a roller-coaster, full of emails and phone calls, but my feeling that Jennifer was the agent for NIL (and for me) never changed. I accepted her offer a week later.
I’m still pinching myself. :D
Here are the dirty numbers:
Novel 1 (YA magical realism):
55 queries, 2 requests. A dismal 3.63 request rate (Ugh!)
Novel 2 (YA post-apoc):
Still in drawer
Novel 3 (NIL, YA light-SF):
35 queries, 14 requests. A much-improved 40% request rate, resulting in my signing with Jennifer. :D (BTW--I'd queried Jennifer on novel 1, and she'd passed.)
Why the improvement? My query was better. My writing was better. But most of all, my MS was better, and it was READY. I let it marinate, then I revised. I got feedback from other writers (CRUCIAL!) and revised again. And then I revised AGAIN, when my gut said it need it.
3 years. 3 books. 3 revisions. The power of three.
I’m still learning, improving my craft. That part of a writer’s road never ends.
But here’s three things I’ve learned:
1. Don’t stop. Don’t stop writing, don’t stop reading, don’t stop improving. Don't stop working. And like Journey sings (*cheese alert* :D): don't step believing--in your writing, in yourself. In your ability to make it.
2. Reach out. Get on-line, go to conferences if you can, make friends with other writers. And remember that old adage, to have a friend you must be a friend? Offer to read their work. Be positive as well as constructive.
3. Remember that your journey is your own. For me it was the power of three. 3 years, 3 books, 3 revisions. Every writer's road is different. But if you keep going, I believe you'll get there, wherever your "there" is. :D
Where are you on your writer's road? *offers travel snacks* And where are you headed? Wherever you are, I wish you safe travels. And I leave you with this song. It gave me heaps of inspiration, reminding me why I refused to stop. :D
"We know, we know, that we are more than this
More than we know, there's a reason we exist"
The Matches "Point Me Toward The Morning"