Social media is a crazy thing. It let’s us promote our work to others. It allows us to learn about images and ideas worlds away. But one of the most amazing things about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is the ability to connect with like-minded people who share the same goals, ideas and dreams, especially when it comes to writing.
I first connected with today’s featured author, Dahlia Adler, via Twitter. I loved her honest advice about writing and publishing, but also her keen insight into what it takes to perfect your craft. If you haven’t read her blog already, The Daily Dahlia, you should. She is always sharing tips on how to improve your work and providing valuable information on the publishing world. Just recently she posted a gem about what life is like after getting an agent. It’s a great and eye-opening read.
Many thanks to Dahlia for sharing her writing journey…
Amy: I know you’re a freelance editor, reading several manuscripts a week. How do you make time to write?
Dahlia: With great difficulty! Honestly, it’s a huge challenge, especially on top of having a full-time job, but I respond really well to goals and deadlines and that helps me a lot in terms of prioritizing and forcing myself to get things done. Also, my husband gets a huge shout-out here for being wonderfully supportive. There are days he gets me for maybe an hour at dinner and then I disappear into my office and he is never anything short of wonderful about it.
Amy: What drew you to write YA fiction?
Dahlia: I’m the youngest by a considerable gap so I started reading YA from an extremely young age because that’s what was around. I grew up with a somewhat unusual background, being Modern Orthodox Jewish and attending yeshiva for elementary and high school, so for me, it was a fascinating insight into the world at large that I never really felt a part of but loved watching on TV. Then I realized I could insert myself into that world in a way by writing. I was about eight years old when I started writing YA, and I’ve never looked back.
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?
Dahlia: I queried two manuscripts before the one that got me my agent. Both actually got a lot of requests but ultimately both now live solely on my hard drive.
Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?
Dahlia: I stopped querying my first one fairly quickly, because it was set in college and those were almost impossible to sell at the time. When you’re getting rejections that aren’t so much about the content of your manuscript but about the fact that they don’t fit into the market, it’s a pretty good clue that it’s just not the right time. I queried the other one for a lot longer, but some of the critique I got from agents on the full made me realize that it needed an overhaul I wasn’t quite sure how to do yet. Honestly, I’m still not, though I’d love to figure it out so I can revive it one day. I love that manuscript, deep flaws and all!
Amy: From reading your blog, I know you have a great circle of critique partners. How do they affect your writing process?
Dahlia: The wonderfulness of my critique partners cannot be overstated. They’re amazing about letting me talk things out and use them as a sounding board, and just at giving critique in general. They make my books better, period, and their wide variety of knowledge is super helpful, especially when it comes to those “normal” things I didn’t experience, like what high school football games are actually supposed to look like!
Amy: Did your query for BEHIND THE SCENES come easily or did it go through many drafts?
Dahlia: My query for BEHIND THE SCENES came incredibly easy to me, which has never, ever been the case for me with any other query letter. I wrote it before I wrote the actual book. After realizing how much trouble I was having with my previous manuscript being so character driven, I really wanted to write something with a strong, linear plot driving the manuscript forward, and BTS was my brain’s response to that desire. I wrote a really early draft on Evernote on my phone, long before I ever planned to start writing the manuscript itself, and then one night I was struck by the entire text of it while lying in bed. I got up, took my husband’s iPad, wrote it in an e-mail to myself, and went back to bed. Voila. It changed slightly during The Writer’s Voice contest thanks to critique from my team, but very, very slightly.
Amy: How many agents did you query for BEHIND THE SCENES? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?
Dahlia: I actually only queried five agents for BEHIND THE SCENES, because its first entry into the world was in The Writer’s Voice contest, and that’s where my agent found it and requested on it, so it had an offer in its first two weeks. I got form rejections from two agents really, really quickly, and then two of the other three – plus one who had a full of my previous ms, and one who’d also requested from The Writer’s Voice – responded to my “I have an offer” nudge within the week, so all in all it was a very fast process.
Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Andrea Somberg?
Dahlia: The call was really, really fun. Andrea’s just a blast to talk to about writing, books, publishing – everything. We talked for almost an hour and maybe 10-15 minutes of that was about my book. I’d already worked in publishing, so I didn’t have a lot of questions about the process, and she only had one tiny revision note for me. The most nerve-wracking part of the call was that she never actually said the words “I am offering representation,” so I sweated that one out for the entire call before finally asking. She laughed and said she thought that was obvious. I don’t think agents realize how much we need those magic words!
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Dahlia: I’ve always, always loved writing, and to me, the act of writing and the dream of getting published are very separate things. Are there times I think I’ll never sell? Yes, definitely. But selling isn’t why I write, so not selling will never be why I don’t!
Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics at an academic publisher, a Copy Editor for Ellora’s Cave, a former Editorial Assistant and Production Intern at Simon & Schuster, a blogger at YA Misfits, and a writer of contemporary YA, represented by Andrea Somberg. You can find her on Twitter as @MissDahlELama and on her blog, The Daily Dahlia. It’s not really daily but it’s definitely her!