I’d always dreamed of being a writer (if you’re reading this then you’re probably an aspiring writer so know what I’m talking about) but even as a kid I knew it was really hard to do professionally. So, instead I picked a nice, reliable career to focus on during college. I always had the idea, though, that writing was something I would try one day in the future, when I was grown up.
Then last year, two things happened. I got my dream job in my dream location and my husband and I bought our first house. The house resulted in three catalysts—a commute, no money, and the realization that I am OLD!
The commute meant I had 60 minutes in the car every day when I could think of anything I wanted (and I needed to think of something other than how much I wanted to kill the other drivers!).
The no money meant I needed a cheap hobby.
And the OLD meant—what am I waiting for?! I was no longer climbing anywhere. There was no longer anything to work towards. I was as settled as I am ever going to get (and didn't yet have that time-suck known as children). I wrote when I was younger (I have boxes and boxes of random scenes and part-stories), but I never forced myself to sit and write from beginning to end.
Now I did. In February 2011, early one Saturday morning I sat down and WROTE. And I pretty much spent all nights, weekends, lunch breaks and early, early mornings writing. I didn’t do any research, didn’t so much as google “how to write,” (came to regret THAT later!) It took me about 8 weeks to finish the rough draft of about 80k words.
Then I wanted someone to read it, and I stumbled upon Critters.org (which is great, by the way, if you’re looking for beta readers). You submit a portion of your story to be critiqued, and in return you critique other people’s stories (there’s no fee or anything, you “pay” in critiques). You can add a note to your submission that you are looking for a “dedicated reader,” someone to read your whole manuscript, so if they liked what they read (or are feeling really generous!) they can offer to read your whole story.
Enter: The Education of Eliza Crewe
I quickly learned that I knew NOTHING about writing. Not plotting, not the industry, not even POV, really. Luckily I intuitively stumbled into some of it, but really, I didn’t have a clue.
Thank God (and I will never be able to say this enough) for the betas.
I lucked out a ton of awesome people volunteered to read my whole story. They were very knowledgeable and patient and pointed me towards all sorts of helpful resources. They showed me what was wrong, why it was wrong, and how to fix it. I got to be a dedicated reader for many of them in return, and pointing out weaknesses in their writing helped me recognize the same problems in my own. With their help I climbed a mountain of knowledge.
I decided to test all this new knowledge on a fresh slate. So in the beginning of May 2011 I wrote my second novel, Cracked. It took about 8 weeks to write—then I put it through Critters and revised like crazy.
In November, Authoress, who blogs at Miss Snark’s First Victim (if you don’t know her, you should) called for submissions for her annual Baker’s Dozen Auction. In the Baker’s Dozen Auction, writers submit a short logline and the first 250 words of their story. Authoress and author Jodi Meadows (of Incarnate fame!), read all the submissions and pick their favorite 60 entries. Those 60 are then posted to Authoress’ blog. On the day of the auction, participating agents then “bid” on the number of pages they would like to read. The agent who bids the most “wins” a one-week exclusive. Of course, it’s really the author that wins!
(By the way, the 3rd annual Baker's Dozen Auction is about to start--first submission window is October 30th, so get your manuscript ready!)
I submitted Cracked, but to be honest, didn’t have high hopes. I’d queried some 30 agents, and hadn’t received anything but form rejections. Not so much as a partial request. So I can’t express how thrilled I was when Cracked made the contest (#36)! On top of that, because of some rule confusion, two agents actually “won” my full: Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, and Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. A few other agents from the contest requested it once the week exclusive was over.
Within a week, Victoria emailed said she loved Cracked, but thought it had some flaws. We had a phone call shortly before Christmas where she suggested a revise and resubmit. Her suggestions were all terrific, and a few months later I sent her and the other agents who had my full,the revised version.
Then in April, a critique partner from Critters.org, who lived in India, messaged me out of the blue. He had offered to read my roughest draft of Cracked back in July, but had a family emergency and couldn’t. In April, he offered to make it up to me by passing Cracked along to a friend of his “in publishing” so I could have a professional’s opinion. I told him that he didn’t even need to apologize, let alone do me any favors! He did anyway, and the following Monday, I received an email from a commissioning editor at Penguin India named Ameya (yes, as in THAT Penguin --------------------------->
only the biggest English publisher on the subcontinent! Yeesh, "in publishing" indeed!!). She said she loved Cracked and wanted my permission to share it with the rest of her team.
Once I peeled myself off the ceiling, I said yes. I then emailed Victoria, since she’d helped me with all the revisions, to let her know what was happening. She’d actually just started reading my revisions and said she would get back to me ASAP. She also took the time to answer a lot of my questions about the publishing process and give me advice, since I was completely unprepared for what was happening.
Ameya emailed a week later and said the whole team loved it, but wanted it to be a series. Could I please send the synopses for the next two books so they could offer on the set?
Once I recovered, I said yes. I emailed Victoria and the other agents who had my ms and Victoria and I scheduled a call. About twenty minutes into the (awesome) call, Victoria said, “Oh, and I just realized—I never officially offered. I am.” And...I found myself happily plastered to the ceiling once more.
I accepted, and she jumped right in to handle the Penguin India deal and to start submitting to US editors. Cracked—now re-titled Soul Eater—sold to Penguin India in a three book deal, the first of which is planned to be released next summer.
I kind of did the whole thing backwards—writing, then learning how to write; publishing offer, then agent; international deal, then domestic. But really, didn't do any of it myself. Both my agent and my publishing contract were the direct result of members of the writing community who went out of their way to help me.
First are my critique partners, who read Cracked (some of them multiple times) and my earlier manuscript, and gave me invaluable advice on how to make it better. Next is Authoress of MSFV for introducing me to my agent. Judging from the 100% failure rate of my query, I’m pretty sure I never would have met Victoria had it not been for her. Then, had it not been for the kindness of my critique partner in India, I certainly never would have met Ameya at Penguin India. Maybe Victoria would have signed me without having editor interest already on the table, but maybe not. And without Victoria, I certainly wouldn’t have sold it to a U.S./U.K. publisher...but that’s another story. I’ll get to that one tomorrow!