For those that are new to my blog, I'm an insomniac... a raging insomniac, and I always have been. I've also always loved writing. I adored creative writing classes in high school and college and I submitted to school magazines and won placement. When the kids came, their needs pushed my writing towards blog posts and journals and mentoring others dealing with Autism and Special Needs. I wasn't writing for fun... I was writing to keep my sanity... but, still, I was writing... a lot.
In October of 2008, my brother said to me, "You should try writing a novel. You'd be good at it."
The idea stuck in my head... and wouldn't let go. I thought there was no way I could write a novel. I mean, that's a lot of words, right? What would I even write about? Well... obviously... something I knew... and so I did. A month later, I'd completed my first novel. The second novel was already pushing its way into my head... so I wrote that one. I mean, I had the time. I wasn't sleeping. I might as well do something with all that time. The third novel slipped out just as easily... and the fourth... and so on. I won't say they're fantastic. It was the challenge of writing something that drove me. They're heavy on dialogue and need revisions. Novel followed novel followed novel... and my family kept saying, "You should publish these. They're good." I laughed and said "whatever" for the most part.
By early 2009, I couldn't stop writing or I couldn't sleep. The characters were keeping me awake with their stories... and now I knew I could write them.
Then, Honor came on the scene. All the novels up until that point had been in a series of books I call "The Company of Him" series. Honor was different. She was a different take on the vampire legend... and she was pissy and fun and when I printed out a hardcopy of "Honor Among Thieves" my betas went nuts for it. Honor traveled. I had friends telling me, "I hope you don't mind but I loaned my copies to my friend/mother/daughter/my cousin's former roommate's orthodontist's ex-assistant." It was crazy. People talked about Honor as if she was alive and asked for the next book... and the next book.
I thought they were weird... and it was a little surreal, but I liked that Honor felt so real to them.
In August of 2009, I submitted a copy of Honor to DAW publishing's slush pile. I tried to keep my expectations low. I mean, sure... people liked my writing... but not professionals. This was DAW. DAW was big-time. Honor made it to a second reader there and they sent me a list of revisions and told me to resubmit in the future.
I wanted to frame that rejection. I wanted to hug it and take it bed and put it under my pillow. They read it! They liked it! They may have passed, but they took me seriously.
It was time to get serious and get an agent... because I knew that I needed help... and someone to do all the math. (Seriously, I've always hated math.)
So, I submitted Honor to a few agents... and almost every query turned into a submission. It was staggering. For someone who writes for herself and her characters... being taken seriously was just so hard to fathom. By that time, I'd decided to step out of the series manuscripts and start writing stand-alones.
When 2010 rolled in, I was going to query... and query hard. I'd decided to query on some of my other manuscripts depending on the agent's preferences. I didn't want to tackle the heavily-saturated vampire market... and, besides, I'd started writing YA by that time, and I was digging it. So, Honor was set aside and I queried on three manuscripts.
I have been thoroughly rejected. In 2010, I was rejected over 100 times.
However, in 2010, I was asked for a submission over 20 times.
I was also on Twitter and I was meeting tons and tons of writers and agents and realizing that even if I was never published... the friendships I was building... were worth the hell of querying.
BTW... querying is hell. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something... or just a liar.
Synopses are a special place in hell that only writers are forced to visit. They're a dark corner that will make your brain explode as you weep uncontrollably.
Okay... back to the story....
All the while, I kept writing... and writing... and writing... so I could sleep. In March of 2010, the idea for Secrets of Skin and Stone stole into my brain. I wanted to write about OCD... real OCD... OCD in all its darkness from a YA girl's POV. I wanted to talk about it... but there was no way I'd query it. No way. Just... no way. I mean, it was too close... perhaps even shades of autobiographical. Just. No.
In June of 2010, Sarah Yake read and loved "Curse Me A Story" and asked what else I had written... which was probably a question she almost immediately regretted. Frances Collin got involved and asked for a list of what I'd written and fulls of several of my mss. I sent her the list. (Stuck in as an aside... I muttered something quietly about this story about a gargoyle and OCD I'd completed but said it needed revision.) The summer squeaked by as they went through them. Sarah came back in September and said they wanted to see revisions of "Curse Me A Story" done. She told me what she wanted... and it just clicked in my brain and I thought, "OF COURSE! I should have done that from the beginning!!!!! BAWAHAHAHA!" I did the revisions which included adding about 20K in words onto the ms... and sent it back... and waited.
I hate New Year's resolutions, but I received my 100th rejection shortly before the year turned and I was determined 2011 was going to be different. I'd tried that hell called querying, and I'd given it everything. I'd poured my soul into querying. Not only had I been rejected THAT many times, but some agents hadn't even cared enough to respond.
I wasn't "giving up." I was going to try something different. Something that WAS NOT querying.
On January 17th, I had a game plan. I was going to hard-core revise the Honor series and epublish it. I was going to submit my short stories to magazine/ezine and short story collection markets. Finally, I was going to revise the one novel that had never really seen the light of day and submit it to ABNA (Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award) because I wouldn't have to worry about the exclusivity conditions with ABNA. No one had seen Secrets of Skin and Stone. I'd been reading up on epublishing and I'd talked it over with my husband.
I HAD A PLAN! I HAD A FREAKING PLAN!
I announced on Twitter: "I'm going to epublish Honor." Within a minute (NO JOKE) of this... an email notification pops up.
I may have said some naughty words when I saw Sarah had sent me another revision request. Not because I wasn't excited... but... because... geez... the universe had it out for me. I mean, I'd JUST made this plan. I'D HAD A PLAN!
I'd decided long ago that if I was going to do this thing... I was going to do it the Sinatra way... my way. I was going to be me... and if the agents didn't like me... it wouldn't have worked anyway. I'm too honest. I'm irreverent. I'm sarcastic. I'm goofy. I overshare. Plus, I have a lot of bad qualities. ; )
So, I wrote back to Sarah and told her that while I would love to do more revisions... (Her advice again... was spot-on perfect... so I was excited to do them.) I told her that I'd started making plans and I dumped all my plans in front of her and asked if I should halt them all until after she'd reviewed Curse Me A Story.
This was probably a very weird thing to do and may have even made Sarah want to run the other direction....
She didn't run, though... so... uhh... hah!
Sarah asked me to tell her more about this story that I "never planned on querying." So, I did... and she was excited and asked to see a full of Secrets of Skin and Stone when I was done revising it.
If you've been following my blog, you know how I revised the crap out of Secrets of Skin and Stone in order to add a southern accent in January. I went hoarse during my read aloud after a full week of reading it aloud in a southern accent. It wasn't the most pleasant revision... but... on the other hand, parts of it still made me cry... and I loved it. I love Secrets of Skin and Stone... even after revisions. I think this was my seventh or eight revision even.
I sent it out to betas... with my heart on the line... and they loved it too.
Finally, last Monday (February 7th,) I hit send and sent it to Sarah... and immediately wished I hadn't.
It was too personal.
It was too OCD.
It had scenes with cutting in it... for crying out loud. What if she wrote back and said, "What part of your twisted little mind did this crawl out of, Wendy?" She'd say it nicely, of course... because Sarah is awesome, but she'd be thinking that.
Last Monday, I was a freaking wreck. I snarled at people all day before I just told myself to go offline for a while until I was less of a bear.
My husband kept sending me looks like "Wendy has finally lost it.... more."
Tuesday morning, I pulled myself out of bed and thought, "I'm going to pretend I didn't send that so I can get on with my life for the next few weeks until she gets back with me." I had all sorts of things scheduled for that day so I did an early run with my dog... during which we were nearly attacked by another dog. It was the worst run ever because my knee brace made it last FOREVER. I got home pissier than ever... and I had to run out the door after a shower to an appt. I was in a foul mood. REALLY FOUL. (We're talking "mentally composing hate mail to the owners' of the dog that attacked us" and "planning on ripping the heads off chickens with my bare hands in the mean time" type of mood.) All the while, I kept thinking, "Why did I send that? She'll probably think I'm crazy. I shouldn't have sent it." While gathering clothes, I popped up my email to make sure the appt. hadn't been cancelled. I was muttering under my breath I was so stressed and frustrated and....
There was an email from Sarah... she couldn't put it down. She couldn't put MY NOVEL down.
I sat down on my couch and just stared.
Utter shock ensued.
I pointed at my laptop... even though I was the only one home.
I laughed... even though I was the only one home. It was one of those crazy laughs that crazy people do too. Maybe it was good that I was the only one home.
I sent an email to the husband and went and took a shower... and went to the appt. and tried to concentrate. My emotions were flying to pieces underneath my skin. I just kept thinking, "An agent... couldn't put down my book. She read it in less than 24 hours. This is the dream. THIS. IS. THE. DREAM." Meanwhile, I was nodding and trying to look sane.
I came home and composed an email to Sarah that probably looked much like the ramblings of a psychopath.
It mostly was.
On Thursday, Sarah offered representation... but I had some manuscripts out that I needed to work things out with the agents... and I'd just come back from a run... and I had to run out the door to a meeting.
At the meeting, I sent an email to Di... and we texted highly-exclaiming texts back and forth while I desperately tried to concentrate on taking notes for the meeting.
My notes for that meeting suck, btw. One of the people there told me at the meeting, "You spelled my name with a "y" in the last notes, by the way... it should be with an "i."' I remember staring at her and thinking, "DUDE!!! An agent asked to represent me!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH!" Instead, I made a note.
I got home and sent another psychotic rambling email to Sarah.
My husband took me out to dinner and told everyone on the ferry and at his work how proud he was of me and that I'd received an offer of representation. (Yes, everyone on that ferry run of the WA state ferries found out before all of you... I apologize. What can I say... my husband is a big fan of me... and it was really sweet.)
By Saturday, I was free and clear to accept Sarah's offer of representation.
I celebrated with Mt. Dew and asked Sarah when I was allowed to start screaming it around online.
I got my contract in an email yesterday and the go-ahead.
I still can't believe it. I'm sure most writers in my position behave with a moderate amount of decorum or something... but... I'm me. I've already put poor Sarah through the labyrinth of psychotic rambling emails... and she still wants to represent me.
This has been a crazy two and a half years... and no matter what happens from this moment on... I feel proud of the fact that I've struggled and grown and become a writer thanks to it. If my first novel had been published, I never would have managed to improve my writing as much as I have. If my first query had netted me an agent, I wouldn't have learned what I have or met some of the wonderful people I've found.
This has been a journey... and sometimes success isn't in the destination but the amazing things you learn along the way and the people who help you get to the next step in the journey. I've queried and interacted with some truly spectacular agents. Sarah is one of them. She "gets" my manuscripts and she's been great about helping me with revisions.
I'm really excited. Hopefully, I'll have more good news eventually... but I finally feel like I'm a professional. I'm not just writing to keep my characters from disrupting my sleep. I'm writing because I'm a writer. I'm not playing at it anymore. I am a writer.
Author comes next.