June 11th, 2009

YOU WISH

How I got here: The Longest blog post I will ever write

So, it's here. Release day. The day I've been working toward for 6 years.

I could start at the beginning-- the VERY beginning, but that would be a bit boring. Suffice it to say that I started on a little site called Fictionpress.com in 2003. That site set the stage for everything I would become. It taught me to write for fun and enjoy every minute of it.

In 2005, I wrote the first book I wanted to get published; THE BROKEN ROAD. It was the longest thing I'd ever written at 85,000 words, and I felt sure I was ready for prime time. At this time in my life, I believed revising meant running spell check and throwing in an extra sentence or two. I queried around a dozen agents and was so sure that it would be just that easy that I simply wrote their names on a single piece of notebook paper and tacked it to a corkboard above my computer.

I also entered two RWA contests, using the first dozen or so pages. It was the best thing I could have done. The entries came back with a lot of feedback, some of which was: Your hero is a womanizing drunk. Your heroine doesn't do anything for herself. They need work. 

I  read the feedback several times and within days, knew they were right. And because revising now meant completely rewriting huge sections, I decided not to do it. No way! Too much work! So I just started something new: THE JETSETTER'S SOCIAL CLUB. I wasn't trying to write YA. I simply wrote about four twenty-something girls, becuase I was 23. Through networking, I ended up chatting to a well-known agent, and she wanted to see the first 100 pages. I sent it to her.

She signed me. It was so simple and easy, I was convinced this meant my path to publication would be short and sweet. I completed the manuscript and turned it in, and she asked for revisions. The biggest change? The four twenty-something year old girls were to become three teenagers.

A YA writer was born.

That April, just after I'd turned in the full of Jetsetters, I flew to Chicago for a conference. There, I met lilrongal , adamselzer , sbennettwealer , and my agent. I remember sitting in that room full of writers an being one of the few agented ones and feeling proud and smug and far too confident.

Five months later my work was still not on submission and I knew my agent was all wrong for me. I fired her. That moment was the scariest moment in this journey so far. My heart was beating wildly out of control when I sent out that letter, and stayed that way as I fired off more queries. One of the people I'd met in Chicago ealirer that year, Carmen Rodrigues, had ended up signing with Zoe Fishman-- who quickly sold Carmen's debut novel, NOT ANYTHING. Carmen referred me to her agent, who requested JETSETTERS. As I am writing this, I just realized I forgot to thank Carmen in my acknowledgements. D'oh! I knew I would forget someone.

In any case, Zoe offered rep, and I quickly accepted. It was the best thing I've done on this path because Zoe is absolutely, completely amazing. By late October of 2006, JETSETTERS began to hit new york. i fell asleep on those few early nights firmly believed I would get THE CALL at any moment.

I didn't. By February or March, I'd racked up a dozen rejections. But some editors did show interest in me. One passed Jetsetters to another colleague to see if she'd want it. And a few asked to see more from me. Zoe sent them a litlte novel called PRADA & PREJUDICE.

It quickly became apparent that PRADA would spark more interest than Jetsetters. The rejections were longer. And we received two revision requests in April. By now, I understood that revising meant more than spell check. I'd completed several rounds with my two agents. I tackled my first editor requested revision with excitement and gusto, sure that they would love what I'd done.

They rejected me. Throughout 2007, the pattern remained the same: very nice, thoughtful rejections. One editor tried very, very hard to purchase it, only to be turned down after several weeks of effort. I revised it again and again and again.

But 2007 came and went, and I couldn't help but scoff at my cockiness at that conference in April 2006. Nothing had gone the way I'd planned.

In early 2008, Prada went out again, to a newer imprint which I'd heard about here on LJ and suggested to my agent. The editor gave me--you guessed it-- a revision letter. But this one was monumental. So big that it wasn't a revision request but a rewrite request. I remember telling my agent that I would do it in an email, and as soon a I hit send, I shook my head to myself. Was I crazy? I'd received over 20 rejections. Many agents retire manuscripts around 10-15. And it was a lot of work.

But i did it anyway. I started from scratch and rewrote it. Around six weeks later, my agent sent it back to that editor.

And I got one of the shortest rejections I'd received to date. I was crushed. My agent said she'd like to send it to Lexa Hillyer at Razorbill books-- for a THIRD time. Lexa had been one of the first to request revisions, over a year prior. She'd seen two versions. Would she even WANT to see a third?

While my agent was overseas at a bookfair, I launched a secret mission: scour the internet for everything I could find on any new editors, imprints or publishing houses. I ended up sending an email to my agent that had eight options. I was freaking out that she'd tell me that she could do her own job thank-you-very-much, but instead she was pleasantly surprised by the work I'd done. She reviewed my list and removed a few names but added some of her own.

In May 2008, the ninth draft of Prada & Prejudice went on submissions to six publishing houses. I'd learned to stop holding my breath. I didn't fall asleep each night dreaming of the overnight sale. I was already wondering what project I should start working on next.

But then I got an email that changed everything. If you want to know how the call went down, check out this video log:
 



I cried. I called cyn2write  and we both cried. I told everyone I knew. I dreamed of my cover. Of launch day. Of endless possibility.

We ended up receiving two offers, and I accepted a two book deal with Razorbill books--and, you guessed it-- Lexa Hillyer. To this day I am awed that she not only read it a third time, but loved it enough to buy it. I guess sometimes the third time really is a charm.

That summer I survived revisions and line edits and copy edits and first pass pages and ARCs and catalogs... it was a dream, every last bit of it, even when I was pulling out my hair two days before a deadline.

All i can say today, after everything, is that it was worth it. Every rejection, every revision, every rewrite, ever tear of despair and joy, it was worth it.

You can never know if you'll be published tommorrow or next year or never, but you can keep trying. And in the end, it was over three years from that conference to my book release, so I'm glad that I didn't know what was truly in front of me. Hindsight may be 20/20 but foresight is blind. Thank god for that.

Looking forward, I don't know what's next on this path for me. Will my book fizzle or sizzle? Will anyone buy it?

Who knows. But you know what? Today is a day that I earned, and no one can take that away.