Blog Posts, Gayle's Gazette

How I Landed a Publisher

The Beginning

Two years ago, I sat down to write my first manuscript. Prior to that, I didn’t have any experience writing a novel. Sure, I’d written before, mostly essays, short stories, blog posts, and even an attempt at a children’s book, but never a full-length novel. So like any inexperienced person on a topic, I took to the internet (haha), researching where and how to start.

I found suggestions in numerous articles, making notes of the important points. And, of course, the one tip I saw over and over again was to read Stephen King’s On Writing. So I did. And after compiling all the advice from all the various resources, I learned one essential tip: Do not quit. So I made this sign for myself:

This sign remained by my side day in and day out, whether on my desk or in my notebook, I carried it around with me, always looking at it before starting every day I wrote. Although I didn’t write every day, I did write most days. Without fail. Butt in the chair. I used to tell people it was a B.I.T.C.H day––butt in the chair day. And before I knew it, four months later, manuscript one was complete. I looked at the finished first draft and said, “Now what?”

The Next Steps

If you’ve followed my journey, you know what happened next. Lost and overwhelmed with so much information on the interweb, and after tons of research and vacillating, I found Mary Adkins and her program, The Book Incubator. Being a three-time published author with HarperCollins, she helped me sift through the following steps, including writing my second manuscript while I let my first one “simmer” to give clarity for my gut read.

Unsure I could write a suspense thriller, but with Mary’s and the Book Incubator community’s support (and still looking at the above picture day after day), I put pen to paper, and eight weeks later, manuscript two was finished. While that one rested, I revisited manuscript one, reading, revising, editing, rereading, revising, and editing it over and over. I gave it to beta readers, and with their feedback, I repeated the process until I had a best-polished version of the story.

Then It Got Real

While in The Book Incubator, I learned about querying (see previous post regarding this), and in November 2021, I started submitting manuscript one to literary agents. Scary as *insert any explicative here*. In turn, I returned to manuscript two, working on it the same way I did with manuscript one––repeating the process until I had the best-polished version.

And while I worked on manuscript two, the rejections or I liked to call them, “no thank yous,” started rolling in. One of three things happened. I’d either get ghosted, a rejection, or a request for more materials. When I heard about a few writing conferences where you could pitch agents live (well, through Zoom, thanks to 2020), I registered to attend a few.

My first one was in March 2022, pitching manuscript one. The next conference was in June, and now that manuscript two was complete, I pitched that one. Meanwhile, after seven months of querying manuscript one, I received nearly eighty rejections. You read that right, eighty! You can read my previous post about that fun experience (insert sarcasm).

The Final Stretch

At that conference, numerous agents requested my manuscript. Two rejections came within the first week. Fast forward six weeks. I received an email from my now agent requesting the entire manuscript. I hit the send button before finishing reading the email (not really, but I was so excited I responded within a few hours). Two weeks later, she requested a phone call. I don’t think I slept until the day we spoke. On my “graduation” day from The Book Incubator, I landed my agent (also a previous post)!

A few weeks later, edits began. One week later, my agent put the manuscript on submission. And we waited. A few “no thanks yous” trickled in. And whether or not this part is true, I’ve heard that most publishers slow down, some shutting down completely during the holidays. If that’s the case, we lost weeks. And we didn’t hear anything for a while.

Fast forward again: The New Year rolled around, and my birthday is three weeks into it. When I blew out my candle, I wished to find a publishing home. The next day(!), my agent notified me we had an offer. I couldn’t believe it. I’d wished it, and it came true. A lot happened from that day until the day I signed the contract, but I’ll leave that for another update.

The Lesson Learned

The takeaway from all this is that it was a long road to get where I am today. I wanted to quit so many times, but that one piece of paper, the first thing I wrote when I started this journey, reminded me not to. No matter what, I had to keep going. And, of course, all of your support, along with my friends and family’s, kept me on the path despite wanting to throw in the towel on the dark days.

I could say that this is the finish line, but I know it’s the starting line for the next part of my writing career. So stay tuned for what happens next!

turned off laptop computer
Blog Posts, Gayle's Gazette

Chaotic Writing: A Lesson Learned

When you walk into my house, it’s neat. And clean. And tidy. Almost like a builder’s model home, minus the fake food props. Everything’s in its place. Don’t worry. I absolutely don’t judge others whose homes are not like mine. There’s something warm about a lived-in home, and I often wish I could live like that. Nevertheless, I function best in an organized space.

My drawers follow suit. They’re organized. Items tucked in respective trays. Garage shelves, same. Closet, same. Order ensues. Linen closet? Meh. But that’s a different beast altogether. You need to properly fold a fitted sheet to have a tidy closet. Still, the shelves are sorted by linen type. You get the picture. I thrive on order. But when it comes to writing, well, that’s a totally different story.

My writing is messy. Plain and simple. I had no idea it was messy until one day when I was transcribing, I realized 1. I couldn’t read my writing and 2. I couldn’t follow the page’s arrows, cross-outs, and scribbles. While writing, I’m focused on what words I write down rather than what the page looks like. I was horrified when I realized just how messy my writing was. How could I be so disorganized? This isn’t what I do. This isn’t how I function. This isn’t me.

A few days later, while talking with my writing cohorts, I blurted my deep dark secret: I’m a messy writer. A weight was lifted off my shoulders, admitting my guilt. And while confessing what felt like a failure, I realized why I can write messily: No one else sees it. Unless I want them to. I get to share who, if anyone, sees my hot mess. Sure, the same could be said for my drawers and closets, but realistically, other family members see them daily and company at times. As for my writing, I can keep my notebooks closed. Private. Sealed off from the rest of the world.

It was hard to accept I’m a messy writer since it’s in direct contrast to other facets of my life. Still, there’s something liberating about it. I love that I can write without judgment. Without worrying about how it looks. Without worrying it’s chaotic. Furthermore, I know it’ll get cleaned up during revision. Organized. Neat and tidy. Just like I like things to be.

My advice to others writers is this: focus on getting the words down. Avoid getting hung up on how the first draft looks. For that’s what it is––a first attempt to get the story down. It’s not the final product. There will be plenty of time to polish it later. That’s what revision is for. And because I’ve come to terms with my messy process, I’m sharing some example pages. Enjoy the chaos!