So I must admit something. I started this W.O.W. series for purely selfish reasons. I wanted to interview other authors in hopes of getting perspective on the world of publishing. I needed to read other people’s stories of struggle and triumph to be reassured I was wasn’t on this crazy path alone.
Along the way I’ve made connections with some pretty cool people and have been buoyed by their tales of querying and rejection before eventual success. I thought I’d heard it all until I came across Meg Whitmer.
I’d followed Meg for a while on Twitter and knew she was a beloved figure among aspiring writers. She created these amazing vlogs and was so open about her feelings regarding the writing and publishing process. Then one day she posted this….
And I was truly inspired. With one post she taught me (and I’m sure so many other writers) the meaning of perseverance. Her writing odyssey is one I go back to time and time again when I am struggling with the process. I hope you will find her path to publication as inspiring as I do!
Here is her story…
Amy: What drew you to write YA Fiction?
Meg: I’ve always preferred to read YA. I love the voices and the huge variation in characters and plots you find in the genre. I can do so many different things under the umbrella of YA. I love the age group…the way the characters are so unapologetically self-absorbed sometimes, and how nothing in the world matters more than what’s happening to them at that very moment. It’s a fun age to write, and there are so many different stories to tell. I can’t imagine writing anything else.
Amy: Was BETWEEN your first completed manuscript?
Meg: It’s my second completed manuscript, but the first that I tried to get published.
Amy: How long did it take to complete?
Meg: This is a tricky question, because I wrote the whole thing from beginning to end three times. I wrote the very first scene in March 2011, and that scene is still in the book. From that scene until the book deal, it took a year and a half. I’m revising again now, based on my editor’s notes, so I’m still not comfortable saying it’s complete!
Amy: Did you use critique partners for BETWEEN? If so, how did that affect your writing process?
Meg: Yes! I have a lot of critique partners (mostly the other authors who blog at www.YAmisfits.com) plus a few more. I would send a few of them the completed manuscript, then revise based on their feedback, and send the next draft to a new group of critique partners. They helped me to see problems with the plot and characters that I couldn’t see because I was too close to the story, particularly after the third rewrite. By that time, I knew the story so well I couldn’t look at it objectively.
Amy: When you first wrote your query for BETWEEN did it come easily or did it go through many drafts?
Meg: I’m the worst at queries. My critique partners Marieke Njikamp and Cait Peterson pretty much wrote mine for me. I seriously think I have something like 20 drafts of my query before I finally just threw myself to the floor and begged someone to help me. This was another time when knowing my story too well was a problem. I wanted to put every single thing in the query, and that’s impossible. Since Marieke and Cait had read it, they could pull out the most important parts for me.
Amy: Can you tell us about how you came to submit BETWEEN to Spencer Hill Press? What was that process like?
Meg: I posted BETWEEN’s query and first five pages in the forums at WriteOnCon, and the editors at Spencer Hill saw it there and requested the full manuscript. They actually ended up rejecting that one, but they included a list of reasons why. I emailed back to thank them for the specific feedback because I was working on revisions, and they told me to resubmit when I finished revising. (See what being polite can do for you? Writers who get hateful over rejections have no idea what kind of bridges they’re burning.) I resubmitted the revised manuscript to them at the beginning of December, and Danielle Ellison emailed me a few weeks later to set up a call to discuss it. She made the offer during that call.
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what helped you push through that moment?
Meg: I used to feel like I had to write the Next Great American Novel, and if I didn’t, then there was just no point to it. I thought I needed to be this hugely impressive master of the written word, and that my book should be absolutely life-changing and thought-provoking for the reader. I would sit at my computer and stare at the screen, and none of my ideas were good enough. This lasted FOR YEARS. The voice I tried to write with wasn’t even my voice. It was ridiculous, and I gave up because I’d never be that kind of writer.
I can’t even explain what changed, other than one day I realized I just wanted to write something that people would want to read. When I took the pressure off and told myself that sometimes being entertaining was just as important as anything else–BETWEEN poured out.
Amy: You have a large presence in social media (on both Twitter and via your vlogs). How has that affected your writing and connected you to others in the publishing community?
Meg: Twitter changed everything for me as a writer. I met all of my critique partners there, and became much more familiar with agents, editors, and publishers. The writing community on Twitter is so amazingly supportive. There’s always someone willing to do writing sprints with you, take a look at a query, or beta read your manuscript. It’s incredible. I think social media is so important because it helps you, obviously, connect with other writers, but it also helps you put more of yourself as a person out there. I think its important to let people get to know who I am personally–not just as a writer–so I tweet about all kinds of stuff, including my kids or just random ridiculous thoughts I have throughout the day. My vlogs help with that too…putting a face and personality behind my tweets.
Amy: If you met a fellow writer on the street, and they told you they were on the brink of giving up on their publishing dream, what advice would you give them?
Meg: Giving up is easy. Sometimes it seems like there are more reasons to quit than to keep going…but the reward is so much greater than the risk. When it all pays off, whenever you reach the particular goal you’re working toward, whether it’s to see your book in a bookstore or just to get through the first draft, it is SO WORTH IT. And remember none of us have to do this alone. There are all kinds of places to find other writers going through this whole process with you. Obviously, I’d start with Twitter, but the forums on querytracker.net and absolutewrite.com are always full too.
Megan Whitmer lives in Kentucky with her husband and two daughters. She loves all things Southern, and has a soft spot for football, kissing scenes, and things that sparkle. Aside from her personal blog, she’s also a contributing blogger for www.HerKentucky.com and www.YAmisfits.com. When she’s not writing, Megan spends her time drinking absurd amounts of Cherry Coke Zero and wishing someone would pay her to tweet. Her debut novel, a YA fantasy called BETWEEN, will be published by Spencer Hill Press in September 2014.