As I sit here and think of how quickly 2011 came to a close—albeit we still have a few hours left—I reminisce on what happened to me and my writing this year. Come, sit by the fire, and let me share with you a couple of this year’s highlights and insights.
I started 2011 filled with hope and determination. I had an agent who believed in my work and I was preparing my manuscript for submission to a list of editors belonging to pretty big publishing houses. I was confident and happy. I thought to myself, this is it. My agent will send out my manuscript and gain an offer from a publishing house. At the time, I was naïve to think you needed an agent to get published. I thought it was part of the step program. Write a novel. Edit it to kingdom come. Share it with your critique partners. Edit it again. Query. Get an agent. Get published. These are the steps, and I believed I needed to take every one of them to get to where I needed to be with my writing career.
As one rejection after another came in, I told myself it was part of the process. Hey, J.K. Rowling was rejected by twelve publishers before one said “Yes, we’ll take a chance.” Like many writers who faced rejection, I sought comfort from the countless success stories out there. I kept reminding myself I needed to stay patient. So, to distract myself, I began writing another novel. Inspiration actually hit while I was watching Deathly Hallows Part 1, oddly enough. Like every time I start a new project, I was excited. I was writing furiously. Little did I know, this novel would change my life for the better. I shall elaborate shortly.
The agent I was with at the time believed in having two rounds when it came to submitting novels to editors. There would be a first round with five editors and a second round with another five. I knew this was a solid plan. If the first round didn’t work out, we would move on to the second round after editing the manuscript. When all five editors rejected my manuscript, I got a call from my agent. We talked about our options. There was only one problem with the novel: Voice. At the time, I was at a loss as to how to approach editing because voice is a subjective aspect of writing. So, I decided not to go into the second round (much to the dismay of my mother). This was around the end of May.
During this phone call, I described another novel to my agent that I’d been hesitant to write because I didn’t think there was a market for it. But my agent was actually excited. He said he could sell the novel right then and there if he had it already. Of course, I’d only written about a chapter of it. I told him I’d finish writing the novel I’d started at the beginning of the year first then begin the new project in June. I actually gave myself one month to write this novel and two weeks to edit it. Ambitious. But I was determined.
So, upon finishing the first novel, I’d sent it to my agent excitedly and while he was reading it, I turned my attention to writing this new novel. I girded my loins and told myself I would write a chapter a day, so by the end of the month, I would have thirty chapters. In actuality, there were some days when I managed two chapters, which was a totally awesome feeling. I held my own NaNo, but in June. As motivation, I had Post-Its stuck above my laptop with phrases like “Follow your instincts,” “Trust your gut,” and “Do something different.” And on my pen holder, I had an index card with the words “Show the story” stuck to it. These were the things I looked at when I felt my resolve to finish the novel waver. Even on days when the novel I was writing scared me because it was something totally darker than anything I’d tackled before, I kept on writing.
By July, I’d finished the novel, took two weeks to edit it, and sent it out to my agent and critique partner. Hitting send on that new manuscript changed everything. First, my critique partner really loved the manuscript. Second, my agent judged my manuscript before even reading it yet. That marked the beginning of the end for our relationship. Remember the manuscript I was writing at the beginning of the year that I had previously sent him? Well, that’s where his judgment came from. That manuscript was total crap, or at least, that’s how I would condense the content of a very lengthy email he’d sent me. I’d asked if he’d already read the new manuscript I’d sent him, the one I was working on in June. He said no, thinking that because I only wrote it in a month that it wouldn’t be any good. That was the straw that broke my back.
The end of July saw me breaking my relationship with my agent. And like any break up, I was devastated. But instead of wallowing inside my sorrow, I turned that broken-hearted energy into action. With the help of my critique partner, we’d put together three new query letters. One for each manuscript I had. Around this time, I’d had four completed novels. The one I’d written at the beginning of the year was shelved because I realized it needed more work before it saw the light of day again.
August saw me querying again. I thought to myself, why am I in this situation again? Why did I take a step back after taking all those steps forward? I call these months: dark times. My hope dwindled a little, I will not be afraid to admit this. But, through the help and support of my family and friends, my determination remained firm. And because of their positive thoughts, I received the largest number of requests for partials and fulls I’d ever garnered since I started a year before. It renewed my hope. It was liberating to some extent because these requests said I was on the right path. But, of course, inside I still hurt.
The balm to the ache came in the form of an email from my former agent. He’d said that after reading my latest manuscript, it was my strongest writing so far. I showed this email to my critique partners and they told me we would show him. And like many break ups, I was primed for revenge. But I immediately pushed those thoughts aside and continued on my path. I didn’t have the time to focus on the negative when there were so many good things in life, like all those requests.
September and October had me enduring rejection after rejection. And during this time, I’d come to the decision that if nothing happened by the end of this year, I would self-publish. I gave myself that ultimatum.
Galvanized, I slowly prepared myself for the ins and outs of self-publishing. I made a list of the things I needed to learn: making book covers, book trailers, marketing the book, where to publish the book, etc. While I was reading everything I could about self-publishing, I was also submitting my manuscripts (remember, there were three) to smaller publishing houses. Basically, I was open to any and every option in front of me, and I wasn’t afraid to explore them all before my deadline. And to make ends meet, I’d decided to freelance my editing and proofreading skills. While I was waiting for feedback from my submissions, I wanted to help other authors get their manuscripts ready. Thankfully, there were those willing to take a chance on whatever help I had to offer.
Come the end of November, my life changed once again. TASTE had found a home. I received an email from Crescent Moon Press, and after informing everyone who had the manuscript about the offer, I’d made my decision to sign. A whole month before my deadline, I was getting published. I was on my way, and without an agent. And I couldn’t feel happier. Crescent Moon Press, I believe, is the right place for Taste.
It’s funny how life works sometimes. You start off having preconceived notions about a certain path you want to take and you forget that to get to your destination you don’t necessarily need to continue on the path you’re on. Like the great Robert Frost once wrote: Two roads diverge in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood, and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.
At the end of Road Not Taken, it basically says that no matter which road you take, the destination is the same. And because of everything that happened to me this year, I’m happy to say I have emerged a better person. I still have much to learn, but I’m optimistic about my outlook no matter what happens. From the ashes of a devastating break up, I rise up knowing more than when I’d first started. And that is something I can’t be more thankful for.
So, as 2011 draws to a close:
I look onward to new possibilities.
To making new friends.
To keeping old ones.
To solidifying old relationships.
To creating new relationships.
To surrounding myself with loved ones.
To forgiving those who have hurt me and my loved ones.
To being kinder.
To being more patient.
To being more loving.
To discovering new things.
To rediscovering old things.
To finally being comfortable in my own skin.
To loving unconditionally.
To appreciating blue skies more.
To smiling more.
To laughing more.
To judging less.
To never be afraid of making mistakes.
To take a step back before making decisions.
To see the bigger picture.
To be more humble.
To remember that just because the path changes it doesn't mean the destination isn’t the same.
And to continue to do what I love: to share the stories of the characters in my head with the rest of the world. Or else, they’d get annoying and scary and stage a mass protest for not listening to them. Which might land me in the loony bin. So, in the interest of keeping my sanity intact, I resolve to write and write and write some more.
If I only had one goal, it would be to write and to keep writing until my very last breath leaves my lungs. If the fast ending year has taught me one thing, it’s that time is too short. No matter how much we wish for an extra hour in every day, it’s a mere sixty minutes. What would you do with those extra 3600 seconds if you could have them?
*smiles* I know my answer.
And if asked if I knew the manuscript I wrote at the beginning of this year would change everything, would I have still written it? Would I have sent it to my agent?
Yes. And yes.
Today, that manuscript has actually evolved into a totally different story. One that I will put together this January. I’m already five chapters deep. And I believe it’s so much better this time around.
I know this post has run a little long, and thank you for sticking with my soliloquy. I want to end with this:
May your new year be fruitful.
May it be filled with love.
May it bring you continued health.
May it grant your wishes, fulfill your dreams.
And may we all look at the New Year and scream: 2012, here I come!