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!