The journey from writer to author is different for everyone. For some people the road is relatively short — Sara Megibow represents an author who went from querier to first pub offer in a matter of hours. And for others the trail is like a Peter Jackson film complete with disasters, sidetracks, and a few orcs along the way.
My experience was somewhere in the middle. I think. Maybe? For those of you who are just starting on this journey, this post might give you an idea of the steps involved and the amount of time you may have to devote if you want to be traditionally published.
January 2010 – I have an idea that sounds like it might be a good story. I crank out 13,000 words in one weekend and am fairly certain I’m a genius. Then my husband brings home GRACELING for Valentine’s Day and I realize someone else has already written my idea. I am no longer a genius. I don’t write again for six months.
July 2010 – I have another idea! I goof around for a couple of months, writing in the evenings and when I’m not swamped with house chores. I write 30,000 words “for fun.”
November 2010 – I participate in NaNoWriMo. The beginning of my story got some good feedback from a writer friend, and I search for another beta who is willing to read for me. I meet Trisha Leaver through Absolute Write, and with her encouragement I write about 25,000 words in the month of November. She expects three chapters a day and I deliver.
January 2011 – I finish my first manuscript. Trisha hooks me up with several other writers and I spend the next two months sending ms to strangers and incorporating their feedback into the revision.
March 2011 – I begin querying. I send out 40 queries in batches of 10 to 15. I receive ten rejections on the first batch, rewrite my query letter, and start to get some bites on the second batch.
May 2011 – I sign with Jennifer Laughran. I actually have the audacity to think that since I was able to get an agent relatively quickly that a book deal is just waiting for me. I am an idiot.
May 26, 2011 – I have a baby.
July 2011 – My first ms goes on submission. I begin writing another book.
September 2011 – Jenn and I decide my first story is not going to sell. The paranormal market is maxed out.
March 2012 – My second ms goes on submission. We get some positive feedback; a few houses say it’s a near miss. I think about rewriting it. I don’t.
July 2012 to October 2012 – I write a bunch of crap. Seriously. It’s all crap.
November 2012 – I decide to participate in NaNoWriMo. I work on a story that’s been floating around in my head for two years. I’m afraid to write it because I love the concept, but worry that I will only produce more crap. I write 40,000 words.
December 2012 – I find out I’m pregnant. Again. I spend several weeks worshipping at the throne of the porcelain goddess. I do not write.
January 2013 – I break a couple ribs. I spend part of January very, very high (it was prescription, I swear!) I dream about my characters and hope to get back to them as soon as I can function.
February 2013 – I finish THE KEEPER’S PRINCESS. I send my story out to my critique partners, rewrite and revise.
March 18, 2013 – THE KEEPER’S PRINCESS goes on sub to a very small, select list of editors.
April 10, 2013 – The first editor wants to speak to me! I hyperventilate at dinner with my neighbor, and then I have a pregnant lady dance party. It’s appalling.
April 15, 2013 – Another editor wants to talk to me! There is more dancing. My kids join in. My husband stares at us like we’re insane. He’s probably right.
April 18, 2013 – Jenn calls me about the offer from Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry. It’s a pre-empt. I sort of know what that means, but my very brilliant agent is patient and explains it all. We decide to accept the offer.
April 19, 2013 – The announcement of my deal appears in Publisher’s Marketplace. I laugh, cry, and dance some more. I’m fairly certain a miracle has occurred.
So, as you can see I’ve been writing as more than a hobby (after NaNoWriMo 2010 it became an obsession) for about two-and-a-half years. I write every single day. Most days my word count is somewhere between 500 and 1500. On the rare occasion, I crank out 3,000 words in a day. There is usually Dr. Pepper involved on those days.
I mention daily writing because I believe that if you want to be published, you have to devote a healthy portion of your life to it. I don’t watch TV unless I’m folding laundry. I don’t go out very often. On some writing-focused weeks we eat a lot of take out or grilled cheese sandwiches.
Writers don’t become authors by accident. I don’t feel like I “suffer” for my art, but I definitely sacrifice for it. After two-plus years that sacrifice has finally paid off. And you know what? I think this is just the beginning.