I’m very excited today to share the writing journey of Ava Jae. A while ago, I was lucky to read the first few chapters of her manuscript, SLAVE & SIRA, and was blown away by her writing. Now I am thrilled to share her writing odyssey where she shares a few tidbits about her time in the query trenches before signing with her agent, Louise Fury.
Thanks to Ava Jae for sharing her writing odyssey today…
Amy: First, you have an incredible blog, Writability. Do you find that posting regularly helps to hone your writing skills?
Ava Jae: Thank you so much! I definitely find that posting regularly has helped my writing—it really taught me that not only is it possible to write even when I don’t feel like it or don’t have ideas, but it’s possible to do so consistently and come out with halfway decent writing at the end. Or at least, halfway decent to me. :)
Amy: What inspires you to write both Young Adult and New Adult fiction?
Ava Jae: Well, I like to say in my bio that I love writing about self-discovery and the complicated worlds of young people, then I like to take their emotionally-ridden lives and basically destroy them. That’s a huge part of it—mostly, I just love the energy and excitement and the way that young people view the world, whether it’s teenagers going through puberty and dealing with new influences and hormones for the first time, or new adults trying to juggle new responsibilities, independence and what it actually means to be an adult. I also love the honesty in the voices of both YA and NA fiction as well as the quicker pace that tends to be prominent in YA & NA.
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?
Ava Jae: I queried and trunked four manuscripts before writing SLAVE & SIRA, though one of those manuscripts I queried twice, so I’d been through the query trenches five times before querying the MS that landed me an agent. I also had five other full manuscripts in the drawer that I didn’t try to polish and query.
Amy: Did your query for SLAVE and SIRA come easily or did it go through many drafts?
Ava Jae: Ha ha ha ha ha. Does anyone write an easy query? If so, I could use some of their magic.
I can’t even tell you how many drafts the SLAVE & SIRA query went through, because I lost count. I posted the original version on WriteOnCon’s forums during their WriteOnCon 2013 event and if I remember correctly, I went through at least eight drafts just based off critiques from the forums. There may have been more.
After that I won a couple critiques from editors off Twitter and giveaways, so it went through several more drafts from those critiques. Then I also had CPs and other very nice people such as yourself look over it. Even after I started querying, I kept getting critiques and tweaking it—in fact, the query that eventually ended up in front of Louise was actually tweaked many times over after she had it, though she never saw those edits.
So…yeah. There were a lot of drafts. And ultimately, Louise saw the first 250 words of my manuscript before she saw my query. So.
Amy: Did you have critique partners for SLAVE and SIRA? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?
Ava Jae: Yes! I have several critique partners and many of them looked at SLAVE & SIRA—one of them even went through it twice. They helped me so ridiculously much. They pointed out plot holes, characters in need of development, places where I could boost the world building, and pointed out several things that were confusing, etc. I love my critique partners to death and they all have super valuable insight.
Amy: How many agents did you query for SLAVE and SIRA? Did you receive immediate responses, or did you have to wait a while for replies?
Ava Jae: I queried 25 agents total. I received a few quick responses, but mostly I had to wait. And wait. And try not to go crazy waiting. To give you an example, two of the queries I sent out in my very first batch at the beginning of September I didn’t hear back from until I sent my notice of offer in early December.
Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Louise Fury? How did you know she was a good fit for you?
Ava Jae: Before I had my Call experience, I’d often read online that writers said The Call was a blur afterward—and you know, they’re right. I was so hyped up on anxiety and excitement and more anxiety that only a couple things really stuck out to me (so thank goodness I took notes).
The two things I remember very clearly are as follows: firstly, Louise and Team Fury’s vision for my book was spot-on with what I wanted. All of her edit suggestions were so beyond perfect and she really got my manuscript. And that was pretty incredible.
The second thing was she was totally willing to let me write in multiple categories and genres, which was important to me, as I like to write both YA and NA and Fantasy and well as Sci-Fi, etc. Between those two elements, I knew she was going to be perfect for me.
Amy: You connected with Louise via an online writing contest. How important do you think contests are in getting noticed by an agent?
Ava Jae: Online contests to me are an extra opportunity to get your work in front of agents. They’re not more important than querying or less important than querying—they’re another way to get your foot in the door, and one that I think is definitely worth giving a try.
That being said, I applied to many writing contests and Twitter pitch fests and wasn’t picked once except in the Secret Agent contest that put my work in front of Louise, which has entries chosen randomly. So something important to remember, I think, is just because you don’t make it into a writing contest doesn’t mean your work isn’t any good.
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Ava Jae: Hmm. Not exactly. I never considered giving up on writing altogether, because I love writing, and more than that, I love writing novels. But the thought had occurred to me that I may never get published, and that was something I had to come to terms with. It wasn’t easy, but once I accepted that it was a real possibility and I was actually okay with it, I was so much happier going forward. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have been way disappointed (and hey, there’s still no guarantee I’ll be published so I can still say it’d be disappointing as hell), but in the end what makes me happy is writing, and living through my characters, and creating new worlds. I’m not published now and I’m perfectly happy, and to me, that’s what’s important.
Ava Jae is a writer, artist and movie lover represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. She writes NA and YA novels because she loves writing about self-discovery and the complicated worlds of young people. Then she likes to take their emotionally-ridden lives, rip them apart, and set them on fire. She also has an addiction to movies, but that’s another matter entirely. You can find her weekly musings on her blog Writability, follow her on Twitter and tumblr or like her Facebook page.