chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

FIRED UP FRIDAY: A Publishing Journey with Joy McCullough January 20, 2017

 

 

In a recent Monday Musings I talked about how too often we see negativity in the writing community. I’m tired of opening social media and seeing authors tear each other down when we should really be building one another up. Supporting each other.

 

With that idea in mind, I reached out to some friends who have had AMAZING publishing journeys and asked that they share (in their own words!) what they went through before they saw their publishing dream realized.

 

My hope is that these posts will light a fire in each and every writer who may be struggling. Encourage those who wonder if they can take another month in the query trenches. Build up those feeling low from being on submission for what feels like forever. Each post will be proof that if you hold onto that dream it CAN and WILL come true.

 

 

 

 

Fired up Friday – A Post by Joy McCullough

 

 

 

 

In the fall of 2016, I sold my debut novel. It was only on submission for a week before the editor wanted a phone call.

 

 

BUT WAIT. Before you rage against another quick-sale-story while you’ve been languishing on sub for months and months and maybe even years, let me back up.

 

 

First of all, I wrote five middle grade novels before I signed with my first agent. I detail that in this blog post (http://joymcculloughcarranza.blogspot.com/2014/02/how-i-got-my-super-amazing-agent.html), but here’s the short version: 290 queries, 47 full requests, one offer from a really well-respected agent.

 

 

I was with that agent for two years. I kept writing. She put three different manuscripts on sub. (New ones, not the trunked ones from before I signed with her.)

 

 

Eventually, I went through the really agonizing decision to part ways with that agent. I blog about that in this post http://project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com/2016/01/on-parting-ways-with-literary-agents-by.html but here’s the short version: leaving an agent is scary, but worth it if they weren’t the right match, and it’s really very common. You’re not alone, if that’s your situation.)

 

 

Since it had taken me so long to sign with my first agent, I was pretty convinced it might take me another five novels to do it again. Or maybe I’d never have another agent. But as it turned out, I signed with the amazing Jim McCarthy quickly, did some revisions, and got out on sub, sure that this time would be different!

 

And you know what? That book didn’t sell either.

 

 

But! Jim was supportive and lovely (and still hasn’t given up on that book). Once that book had gone on sub, I had sent him a list of pitches for what I should work on next. There were five or six things on the list. At the very end of the list, I tacked on an idea that seemed so wildly unmarketable that I was almost embarrassed to include it.

 

 

But I did. (Because I’m a glutton for rejection? I don’t know.)

 

 

And Jim wrote back (within five minutes, probably, because that’s how he is) and said, WRITE THAT LAST ONE. (And then he hedged to say how several of the other ideas were good too and I should do what I wanted to do, because he’s always trying to let me be me. But it was clear how he really felt. And I really trust him.)

 

 

That last pitch? Was for BLOOD WATER PAINT.

 

 

It’s a historical verse novel set in the 17th century. Also partially set in Biblical times. Super feminist. I didn’t know what Jim was thinking. But it’s a story I’ve loved for a long time—an adaptation of one of my own plays. And I was excited about the possibilities of making it a YA novel. So I wrote it. And revised it. And it went on sub. And guys, this was my fifth book to go on sub. The tenth I’d written. My hopes? They were LOW.

 

 

Low really doesn’t begin to describe it.
And THEN. A week after it went on sub, my phone rang. I was at my sewing table. It was Jim. Jim hadn’t called me at all during the submission period of the first book we tried to sell. A phone call seemed like it might mean something.

 

 

He was calling to tell me an editor wanted to have a phone call with me. (And not just an editor. THE editor that I had freaked out to see on my submission list.)

 

 

“WHAT DOES THIS MEEEEAAAAAAN???” was my immediate response.

 

 

Jim didn’t know for sure, but it definitely wasn’t bad news. So we set up the call (blessedly for just a couple days later).

 

 

I have phone anxiety. And this felt like maybe the most important phone call ever. But the editor was incredibly lovely, and mainly wanted to talk about how I’d come to write this story and what my hopes were for it. And at the end of the call, he said he “hoped to offer” and would know in about a week if he could.

 

 

Of course, publishing is publishing, so it was more like three weeks before my phone rang again. With Jim’s number. I was at my sewing table again. (I really don’t sew that much! Next time I’m on submission, though, I’ll probably sew non-stop.)

 

 

And he told me Andrew Karre at Dutton Young Readers had made an offer on BLOOD WATER PAINT to be published in 2018.

 

 

More things had to happen before all was final, including another phone call with Andrew, throughout which he was standing in an NYC Whole Foods. Also several phone calls with Jim, during which I was so grateful he already knew I could form actual sentences, because I was probably less coherent than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

 

 

And then, finally, it was real. It was happening. I didn’t believe it, of course. Not when I signed the contract. Not when I finally got to announce it. Not even now that I’ve been working with Andrew (who is straight up brilliant) for a couple months. It probably won’t feel real until I’m holding the book in my hands.

 

 

But it IS happening. There’s even a Goodreads page! (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33301702-blood-water-paint?ac=1&from_search=true) My book is going to have a cover and ARCs and even be on bookstore shelves one day!

 

 

And yours will too, eventually. It might even happen on your very first book. If so, that’s AMAZING! But if your journey is on the longer side, just know you’re on a well-trodden path.

 

 

These are my trail essentials for the long route to a book deal:

 

 

  • The AMAZING kidlit community—find your people and surround yourself with them.

 

  • Your next story: As soon as you begin querying or subbing one manuscript, start the next thing. Getting invested in a new project has always been key for me.

 

  • Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to step away for a bit when rejections get to be too much and/or it’s not fun any more.

 

 

You’ll be back. Because you have stories to tell—and I can’t wait to read them.

 

 

 

 

headshot1Joy McCullough’s debut YA novel BLOOD WATER PAINT is coming from Dutton in 2018. She’s a freelance editor, ghostwriter, and Pitchwars mentor. You can find her on Twitter at @JMCwrites and on her website at www.joymcculloughcarranza.com

 

Here’s to 2017! December 31, 2016

 

 

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Wanted to share a quick note to say THANK YOU for an AMAZING year.

 

This blog continues to bring me so much joy because it connects me to each and every one of you. Your comments and words of encouragement buoy me in both happy and sad times.

 

In 2017 I promise to keep bringing you original content. The W.O.W., FIRST FIVE FRENZY, and QUITE THE QUERY posts will continue, as will my new series, FIRED UP FRIDAY!

 

I’ll also be sharing all the craziness that comes with diving back into the query trenches and looking for new ways to get my words out into the wonderful world of readers.

 

Please know that I appreciate you following this blog, and that in 2017 I hope you will share both your triumphs and tribulations in the publishing world. The only real way to succeed in this business is to keep trying and to rely on your friends who understand your struggles.

 

Here’s wishing you health, happiness, love, and laughter in the NEW YEAR!

 

 

Hugs,

Amy

 

 

 

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Another Sun vs. Snow Success Story! December 28, 2016

Filed under: Blog,contest,Inspiration,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:12 am
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Putting together a contest like Sun vs. Snow is hard work. Behind the scenes there is a ton of coordination and frantic emailing going on as Michelle and I try to get all our plans ready for the contest.

 

And while it does take a ton of time, there are many rewards. One of these is seeing a past entry go on to secure a book deal.

 

Today, I’m happy to share KD Proctor’s success story. Her entry, MEET ME UNDER THE STARS (formerly IF YOU’RE EVER IN TOWN) was mentored by Laura Heffernan.

 

Here is KD’s story…

 

Remember when you were a senior in high school and you did those questionnaires talking about “Where I’ll be in 10 years”?  Here’s what I put down (photo is from my high school’s newspaper ALL those years ago–we won’t get into the fact they spelled my name wrong…)

 

 

kelleys-hopes-in-high-school

 

 

If you can’t read it, it says:  In 10 years I hope to be working for NASA as an astronaut, hopefully Commander. I wouldn’t be living in (hometown). I would live in Houston, TX.  It’s closer to my job. I wouldn’t be married or have children. It’s too soon out of college.

 

Nowhere on that little blurb does it say anything about being a published author. I was so determined to be an astronaut that I attended a school with a top notch aviation and aerospace program.  But in college, you learn a lot about yourself. For me, I discovered that quick recall and split second decision making was NOT my jam. Which kind of makes being in a space shuttle a little unrealistic. I changed my major so many times my advisor was sick of seeing me and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences knew me by my first name. When I took my first English Literature class and got to express myself through writing, I was hooked and English is what I finally declared as my major.

 

My mom’s response:  So…what are you going to do for a job?

 

As always, mom knew best.  Unlike my fellow English majors I had no desire to write a novel or be an editor or anything related to English at all.   I was drawn to student leadership and ultimately I went into Student Affairs and College Student Personnel—working full time on a college campus, where I still work today (yes, my mom is happy I’m using my Master’s degree).

 

In my full time job, I work a lot with online learning. I was looking over tools faculty could use in online courses when I came across Wattpad. I had no idea this platform existed. It was incredible!  And that led to an evening where I fell down the Wattpad rabbit hole reading stories by amazingly talented people. A spark was lit. I wondered what I would write if I had the chance?  And that’s when the ball got rolling. Two years, four manuscripts, and countless CP and beta reads later, I had a manuscript that was query ready and I got the nerve to enter Sun vs. Snow in January 2016. I went into it with a completely open mind. When I hit “send” and got confirmation I made the first 200, I remember telling my husband that night at dinner, “Whatever happens, happens.”

 

It happened.

 

I got in.

 

When the list was announced on Super Bowl Sunday, I remember screaming so loud I freaked out the dog.  I had also entered a football pool at work, so my husband thought I had won money (side note:  I did win that, too! Ha!).  I said, “NO!  I got into the pitch contest!” and I made him read the website to make sure my book was listed.  I couldn’t believe it!

 

I hit the mentor jackpot with Laura Heffernan.  She was so encouraging and positive.  So much so that a few days before our pitches went live for Sun vs. Snow, another pitch contest was happening on Twitter—PitMatch.  The idea was authors and editors were going to do what they could to “match” pitching authors with agents and editors to generate interest in our manuscripts. She encouraged me to enter PitMatch.

 

Between PitMatch and Sun vs. Snow I was approached by several editors and agents.  After researching each, I sent the requested material to those I felt comfortable with and waited for the results to come back. Within a few days, most had asked for more chapters or full manuscripts—which was incredibly encouraging.

 

It sounds very “fairy tale” like, doesn’t it?  First contest you enter, you get picked and it’s generating a good buzz!

 

Needless to say, the clock struck midnight and my carriage turned back into a pumpkin because the rejections started rolling in. Surprisingly, I wasn’t upset. At all.  I looked at every rejection as a way to improve. Thankfully the agents were all so incredibly nice and very encouraging.  But there was a reoccurring theme popping up in almost every single rejection: your voice/plot/character development/writing skills are fantastic….but selling New Adult manuscripts is really hard.

 

Many of the agents shared that they were looking to see if my manuscript could be voiced “up” (to adult/women’s fiction) or “down” (to young adult).  And every agent said doing so would hurt the story because my voice was so strong.  But I still continued to query, entering another twitter pitch contest and again, the response was high.

 

With queries circling about, I was surprised to see an offer in my box publish my manuscript with a small, independent publisher.

 

I panicked.

 

I had forgotten that I submitted to an editor, too.

 

I sent Laura (my Sun vs Snow mentor) an e-mail telling her what happened because I realized that I “double queried” which is HIGHLY DISCOURAGED. The rule of thumb is that you should query editors or agents—not both at the same time. I was horrified that I made such a rookie mistake! She talked me through the pros and cons and said not to worry because it happens. She also encouraged me to reach out to agents who did still have my manuscript and tell them of the offer. The publisher, Bookfish Books, was more than accommodating to give me the time I needed to check in with agents before accepting their offer.

 

Agents were kind enough to move me up in their queue, but in the end, they passed on representation.

 

With the agent decisions now off the table, I actually felt like Lady Justice with her scales, weighing the pros and cons. On one side, I loved this age category. I loved my story and felt it in my heart that it was THE story that would get me published. On the other side, agents are telling me that the category is hard to sell and when you make a living off selling books, that can make representation hard. Same was true with writer friends who were also querying or were out on submission as they, too, were being told the same thing about New Adult books. But then you see small publishers like Bookfish Books, Entangled and Carina accepting the challenge, publishing New Adult books and doing well with it.

 

I had to ask myself, “Do you trust your gut that bypassing an agent and going with an editor is a good idea? Or did you jump the gun and are taking the first offer because it’s there?”

 

In the end I knew the answer…I was trusting my gut. I wouldn’t have queried to Bookfish Books if I didn’t believe in what they did. In the end, with all of the knowledge I gained, and the support of those around me, I was excited to accept the offer from Bookfish Books.  Many raise an eyebrow to small publishers—we’ve heard the horror stories. All I can say to that is do your research and dig DEEP, not being afraid to ask questions. Everyone I talked to at Bookfish Books has been incredibly pleased with their experience. And to date, so am I.  The support I’ve gotten has been well above expectations and I couldn’t be happier.

 

 

 

 

kelley-headshot-bw  Kelley’s debut novel, MEET ME UNDER THE STARS (formerly titled IF YOU’RE EVER IN TOWN), is a New Adult Contemporary romance and comes out in July 2017.  In July 2016 it was selected as the winner for the 2016 YARWA Rosemary Award in the New Adult category.

 

You can find Kelley here:  http://www.kdproctor.com

As well as on social media:

www.twitter.com/kdpwrites

www.instagram.com/kd_proctor

www.facebook.com/kdpwrites

 

 

FIRED UP FRIDAY: An incredible publishing journey from Laura Heffernan November 11, 2016

 

In a Monday Musings post a few weeks ago I talked about how too often we see negativity in the writing community. I’m tired of opening social media and seeing authors tear each other down when we should really be building one another up. Supporting each other.

 

With that idea in mind, I reached out to some friends who have had AMAZING publishing journeys and asked that they share (in their own words!) what they went through before they saw their publishing dream realized.

 

My hope is that these posts will light a fire in each and every writer who may be struggling. Who wonder if they can take another month in the query trenches. Or those feeling low from being on submission for what feels like forever. Each post will be proof that if you hold onto that dream, it CAN and WILL come true.

 

 

 

Fired Up Friday – A Post By Laura Heffernan

 

 

Publishing is a roller coaster. Sometimes it feels like there are more downs than ups. Sometimes it feels like you’re stuck, waiting for everyone else to get on or off before you can move at all. Compared to some people, my journey may look like riding It’s a Small World After All. Compared to others, it was a race through Space Mountain. Sometimes I felt like I was spinning on the teacups (and trying not to throw up). And that is one reason everyone will tell you not to compare yourself to other writers. It doesn’t help.

 

 

In October 2013, I started to write the manuscript that would become AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR. My book debuts on March 7, 2017 – three and a half years after I wrote the first words (which have long since been deleted and replaced).

 

 

I’m a fast writer. I started querying in December 2013. Little did I realize that this was a terrible idea, because everyone was querying their unedited NaNoWriMo projects, and while I’d read through my manuscript a couple of times, I didn’t know what a critique partner was. I didn’t have beta readers. No one else read it. And, shockingly – none of the agents I sent it to wanted to read it, either. But, I started researching. I joined Twitter. I met other writers, and that’s where I found out there were contests for writers who were looking for agents. One of the writers I met in that very first contest is a dear friend and critique partner today. One of them is an agent sister.

 

 

Anyway, by some miracle, when I entered Sun vs. Snow that January, Michelle Hauck picked me as an alternate and decided to host a query critique workshop on her blog. This was where–while hanging off a balcony to read my email in Mexico at my sister’s wedding–I learned that I needed to swap with people, get opinions, grow. That was also how I learned how to write. Not just through getting critiques, but from reading and critiquing other people’s work.

 

 

People didn’t like my main character, so I revised. I scrapped the beginning, swapped with a new critique partner…and got an email three days later that it was so boring, she couldn’t read it. That was it. No suggestions on how to fix it. No commentary on the scene beyond the one she objected to. Nothing. Back to the drawing board. I did #CPMatch and I found someone to help me. In March, I entered another query contest. Like the first contest, I sat glued to Twitter while slush readers tweeted out hints. One of them mentioned my plot and said they didn’t like it. Ouch. Even though there were multiple readers choosing for multiple blogs, it hurt. My critique partner got in, but I didn’t. After the picks went up, another reader told me that my main character–who I’d spent many, many hours editing to make nicer and more likeable–was a doormat. Oops. Apparently, I went too far in trying to make her likeable. The most frustrating part was that I knew once people got into the story, it was good. I just couldn’t manage to get to the part people wanted to read.

 

 

Finally, finally, finally, I got a beginning that seemed to work. In April 2014, I was chosen for NestPitch. I got no agent requests. But I had a decent query and a better beginning, and I finally started getting requests from regular queries. I started to feel pretty good. Then I entered Query Kombat, where I was wiped out 7-0 in Round 2. I still haven’t gotten over the judge who said she liked my book, would prefer to read it over the other one – but she was voting for the other entry. No, I don’t know why.

 

 

Not so much a nice ride on the Monorail, is it? (At some point in this blog, I decided I was publishing at Disneyland. Sorry. Just go with it.)

 

 

Anyway, I got some great feedback from Query Kombat, and in July, I got not one, but two agent offers. That was awesome. Savor those small victories. (Side note: I later made a spreadsheet so I could check off the little things as I achieved them. Sometimes we need the reminder of how far we’ve come.) It wasn’t that I queried for an excessively long time, but there were a lot more downs than ups on that road. Over the course of about 7 months, I sent 67 queries.

 

 

Finding an agent gave me newfound faith in myself. Things were great. I was the first person in my small group of writing friends to get an agent. Once we did some revisions, I was so jazzed up, I was certain we’d get a quick sale to a Big 5 publisher – maybe even at auction! Yeah… not so much. Rejections trickled in, most of them the same. Editors liked the book, but didn’t want to buy it. It wasn’t big enough. (I still don’t know what that means, and I’ve heard it about a quadrillion times.) No feedback.

 

 

And then, around the time my critique partners started getting offers from agents, my agent stepped down, and I was transferred within the agency. I was thrilled to work with the other agent (who gets me in ways I never dreamed, even when I’m being weird), but at the same time, I wondered – if my book were better, if it had sold faster, if it had been something editors wanted to read, would my first agent have stayed? (Yes, I know this is stupid but it came on the heels of someone I queried with getting a three book deal despite going on sub after me and another friend getting buckets of money thrown at him after less than a week after his book went out so I was just a swirl of nasty emotions. Plus, it was January. It was dark, it was gross outside, I work from home, and I basically was miserable.) I found out around the same time that every editor who had my book during the first round of sub had turned it down. It had been out several months at that point, so I kind of figured, but – it hurt.

 

 

Anyway, I started working with my new agent. My poor, wonderful agent who had to deal with the stress ball I’d turned into when she hadn’t even subbed my book yet. I spent probably 4 months wondering if someone made her sign me, or if she only took me because she felt sorry for me. (My agent is lovely and wonderful and did nothing to cause any of these feelings. I was just really down, and nothing was picking me up.) We did more revisions, the book went out again and… we waited. We waited and waited and waited. Waiting is agony. Still, we got no useful rejections. No useable feedback. Nothing.

 

 

All this time, in the background, I kept writing. An entire manuscript while querying. A third right after my book went out on submission. A fourth started in January, much darker than any of the others. A fifth started in the summer. A sixth, two weeks after my one-year anniversary on sub. That last one…. doesn’t even make any sense. I wouldn’t begin to know how to fix it, and it’s not even worth trying. I was just in the wrong place to write it.

 

 

Finally, in January 2016, we decided it was time to call it. My agent nudged the editors reading for the last time, and we turned to editing what I thought was the most marketable book I’d finished during the last year and a half (I write fast. We had too many options). While my agent was compiling a sub list–seventeen months after the first submission went out, only days before we planned to start trying to sell something else–she got an offer. When I got an email from her, I actually checked to see if it was April Fool’s Day.

 

 

But it wasn’t! We had an offer. Finally. Then I had to be quiet and keep it all a secret for almost three months until I was allowed to announce it. But now I can happily say that AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR will be the first book in a three-book series, coming from Kensington’s Lyrical Shine on March 7, 2017, with SWEET REALITY and an untitled book to follow. Sometimes I still pinch myself when I get an email from my editor. I’m thrilled with the way things worked out.

 

 

 

AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR

 

SEEKING THE SMART ONE

 

Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash, it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.

 

Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .

 

 

 

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AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR is forthcoming from Kensington/Lyrical Shine on March 7, 2017.

Pre-order today!

AmazonBarnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | Apple iBooks

 

 

 

44vc7pg3_400x400Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off: AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR, the first book in the REALITY STAR series, is coming from Kensington’s Lyrical Press in March 2017. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.

 

 

Some of Laura’s favorite things include goat cheese, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, the Oxford comma, and ice cream. Not all together. The best place to find her is usually on Twitter, where she spends far too much time tweeting about writing, Canadian chocolate, and reality TV. Follow her @LH_Writes or visit her website, http://www.lauraheffernan.com/

 

 

Laura is represented by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary.

 

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with McKelle George October 26, 2016

 

 

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Every writer has their own path to publication. Some paths are long and winding. Others are a straight shot. No matter the tale, the journey always involves ups and downs, caution signs, and for some, serious roundabouts, but what always remains is the writer’s commitment to their craft and their enduring dream to see their work on bookshelves one day.

 

 

In bringing you the W.O.W. series, I hope as a writer you will learn that no dream is unfounded. That with time, patience, perseverance, and commitment to your craft, it is possible to cross that finish line and share your story with the world.

 

 

Today, I’m pleased to share McKelle George’s writing journey…

 

 

 

 

 

Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

 

McKelle: 2011. I remember, because I’d been living in Hungary for almost two years. Before then, I’d been studying illustration. I switched to English (which isn’t necessary to write, but it was for me and my focus) when I started university the fall of 2011, and now here we are!

 

 

 

 

 

Amy: How many completed YA manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?

 

McKelle: One and a half? I queried the first book I ever wrote, and it was terrible, and though I did get a few full requests, it really wasn’t that good and I’m glad it will never see the light of day. The half is because I submitted my next book to a contest before querying, and it got signed with a small press as a result. However, when I signed with my agent with my next book, we got out of the aforementioned contract.

 

 

 

 

 

Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?

 

McKelle: It wasn’t easy, exactly, but also not that hard. For my first book, that was because I didn’t put as much time into research because I had no idea what I was doing. For the book that got me my agent, I only queried 20 before it was in the Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness contest, and also got some requests from #PitMad. From first query to offer was only about two months, and I blame those two contests for propelling my querying process so quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

Amy: From beginning (first draft) to end (signing contract), how long was the process of getting a deal for SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE?

 

McKelle: I wrote the first word of the first draft July 20, 2013. And I had the phone call with the editor who signed my book December 2015. So, two and a half years.

 

 

 

 

Amy: Do you have critique partners? If so, how critical are they to your writing process?

 

McKelle: Yes! Sometimes I will give my manuscripts to other author friends and I always appreciate their feedback. But I have two critique partners who read everything I write. I met them in college and we went on a study abroad to the UK together and are still really good friends. It’s not at all necessary for CPs, but even more valuable than their feedback on my writing is their friendship, so I love being able to call them to get ice cream with me if I need it—as well as critiquing my work. (:

 

 

 

 

Amy: What one thing are you looking forward to most as a debut author? 

 

McKelle: Holding my physical book in my hands, seeing it on a shelf. So many of the “perks” of publishing are not in your control, and every journey is different. But nothing can take away from having the published finished result of your hard work in front of you.

 

 

 

 

 

Amy: What was your “call” like with Katie Grimm? How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

McKelle: So, I actually had another offer and another phone call with another agent first. After I sent the courtesy will-you-let-me-know-if-you’re-interested-because-I-have-an-offer e-mail to the other agents who had the full of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE, she was one of the ones who got back to me and was still interested. And her e-mail was like, ha ha, this huge paragraph of things she thought needed to be fixed in the manuscript, and the end of it was basically, “I would expect a lot of work, but if any of my notes are resonating with you, I’d love to chat.”

 

I remember being really stressed out about choosing the right agent between the ones who offered, because there wasn’t a bad choice. Katie had all the professional things I was looking for in an agent (I had a small checklist of qualities), but in the end, it was also a gut feeling. She just sounded so smart and tough on the phone! I knew she was someone I’d want to have in my corner, and someone I could trust to know the business and get things done. I haven’t regretted the choice once.

 

 

 

 

 

Amy: What one piece of writing advice did you receive early on in your career that you still use today?

 

McKelle: I don’t know if I still use it, but I still stand by it, and that was: put your first project aside. It was revelatory to me, to stop picking at the same story again and again. Writing more books taught me way more than revising the first old one.

 

The other thing (and sorry to be cliché and use Stephen King) was reading the book On Writing, and reading the passage that starts: do not come to the blank page lightly. It was the first time it clicked for me that I would need to sacrifice other things to do this, that it was a serious thing that deserved to be pursued seriously, and not just some fun hobby.

 

 

 

 

 

mckellegeorgeMcKelle George is an editor, perpetual doodler, associate librarian at the best library in the world (the Salt Lake City Public Library), and lover of quiet adventures. Her debut novel SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd. For more on McKelle, check out her website or follow her on Twitter (@McKelleGeorge).

 

 

MONDAY MUSINGS: The Reality of Writing – Revision September 5, 2016

 

 

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The day I decided I wanted to write my first book I had a vivid idea in my head. I sat down at the computer to begin and the words started to flow. To say I was beyond clueless in that moment is a mild statement. I thought all I had to do was form the words on the page, arrange my thoughts in some cohesive order, and the story would fall into place.

 

 

That first book began with all the cliché newbie mistakes: prologue opening (basically backstory info dump), a dream, and the very unoriginal look in the mirror to describe my character. Now, many years later I know better, but was I wrong to make all those early mistakes? Absolutely not. Those mistakes were all part of a process I had to go through in order to become a better writer.

 

 

In reality, writing is all about making those missteps and then going back and correcting them. It’s all about REVISION.

 

 

You can outline all day long. Create a chapter-by-chapter analysis of everything you want to accomplish: tension, stakes, driving plot forward, but in the end creativity and story take over. Many times I find my characters have something different to say or another path they want to take. Instead of adhering to that outline, I let them guide me. Take me where they need to go with the idea that if I get off track I can rely on my good friend, revision to get me back to the right spot.

 

 

Often times when I’m working on an edit for a client I find myself trying to frame the feedback in a way that will be the most positive. Challenging them to dig deeper in their characterization or narrative. But no matter how the words are delivered, one thing remains the same: the notes may sting. Even so, there’s still a need for change. For reshaping. For rethinking how a scene plays out.

 

 

Which brings me to my next point…There is NO SHAME in revising. Cutting that manuscript to shreds and putting it back together like a 500 piece puzzle is perfectly normal. While the first attempt at a draft is glorious, the real work comes with that second, third, or even tenth revision. It’s about shaping that story into a tale that will draw readers in and never let them go.

 

 

The revision process is a necessary step in writing. Please don’t let anyone tell you something different. When you receive feedback from a CP or beta reader it may be bruising, but there’s hope in those notes. It’s a chance to look at your story through another set of eyes. To see what is working and what needs to be refined. It’s okay to be a little shocked if you get six pages of feedback, but don’t get frustrated or angry. And certainly, please DO NOT GIVE UP. Give yourself time. Let the notes sit for a while. When you’re ready, go back and look at them with a clear, rational head. It’s in those moments you’ll find clarity and understand where your work needs to change.

 

 

Again, I’m not ashamed to repeat it…REVISING is what makes a story. Own it. Embrace it. Then get back to work, tearing the crap out of that manuscript until it becomes a beautiful book you know readers will love.

 

 

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Rachel Lynn Solomon June 29, 2016

 

 

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Every writer has their own path to publication. Some paths are long and winding. Others are a straight shot. No matter the tale, the journey always involves ups and downs, caution signs, and for some, serious roundabouts, but what always remains is the writer’s commitment to their craft and their enduring dream to see their work on bookshelves one day.

 

 

In bringing you the W.O.W. series, I hope as a writer you will learn that no dream is unfounded. That with time, patience, perseverance, and commitment to your craft, it is possible to cross that finish line and share your story with the world.

 

 

Today, I am pleased to share Rachel Lynn Solomon’s writing journey…

 

 

 

 

Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

 

 

Rachel: I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer — I think I’ve wanted to be one as long as I’ve been a reader. When I was growing up, I wrote constantly and posted stories on FictionPress (some are even still up there). I didn’t get serious about being a writer until after I graduated college. I’d studied journalism, so I’d been writing and hearing others’ stories for years, and I decided to try telling one of my own. It became my first finished book, a semi-autobiographical new adult kind of thing that I still can’t believe I queried! I did not understand showing vs. telling. I did not understand what was wrong with three chapters filled solely with info-dumps. But it was important for me to write that book — to know that I could write a book.

 

 

 

Amy: I love the themes of sisterhood and family dynamics in FINGERS CROSSED. What inspired you to write the story?

 

 

Rachel: The story concept came to me in several waves. The very first one — and this is almost awkward to admit! — was that I wanted to write a bold, kind of sexually aggressive teen girl because I hadn’t read very many female characters like that in YA. I thought it would be fun to explore, so she became one of the twins. I also felt I’d read a lot of twin stories where the characters were opposites: one’s going to Harvard, and the other’s a slacker. Both sisters in my books are ambitious in different ways; one is a viola prodigy and the other wants to become a surgeon.

 

 

I’ve always thought of Huntington’s disease as one of the most tragic things that can befall a family. The idea that you can know if you’ll develop the disease but not when — it’s heartbreaking to me. While doing research, I learned there’s a 50/50 chance that the child of a parent with Huntington’s will inherit it, and I thought, what if one twin tested positive and one tested negative? It seemed to lend itself naturally to a dual POV story, and I hadn’t read too many multiple POV books narrated by sisters.

 

 

Lastly, family dynamics and Judaism are integral to the story. This is actually the first book I’ve written with Jewish protagonists. Growing up, I rarely read any stories about Jewish people that weren’t about the Holocaust. I wanted my younger self and other Jewish readers to see themselves in my book.

 

 

 

Amy: After reading your amazing blog post about the journey to selling your debut (read the post here!), I was inspired by your perseverance. How did you keep writing in spite of the ups and downs?

 

 

Rachel: I kept writing because it was the only thing I could do, the only thing I had control over. At any stage of this journey, that remains the thing we have the most control over. Writing has always been a bundle of different things for me: cathartic, comforting, challenging. While taking breaks is always a good idea, I don’t think I could have stopped writing because in my soul I am a writer.

 

 

It also helped to connect with other writers on long journeys, particularly writers who’d left agents and were querying for the second or third time. I never felt alone, and that was a tremendous comfort.

 

 

 

Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on your final version?

 

 

Rachel: Depends on the book! I always write queries early on in the drafting process so I know whether what I’m writing has a solid enough hook and stakes. If I’m struggling to write the query, maybe I haven’t fully developed the plot or characters yet. Then I labor over each word. I love words (I mean, obviously, right?) — but more specifically, the exactness of them, the satisfaction of a dynamic verb or a precise noun.

 

 

 

Amy: Do you work with critique partners? If so, how do they help shape your stories?

 

 

Rachel: YES, and I would be absolutely lost without them. I used to send chapters to readers early on, but now, while I brainstorm with CPs throughout the process, I don’t usually share until I have a completed (and often extremely messy) first draft. I like to have something finished that I can then mold and take apart.

 

 

 

Amy: From beginning (first draft) to end (signing contract), how long was the process of getting a deal for FINGERS CROSSED?

 

 

Rachel: I started writing the book in March of 2014, and it sold in May of 2016, so a little over two years! It’s been through several rewrites and many, many revisions. Once it went on submission with my current agent, Laura Bradford, it sold in six weeks, which still feels unbelievable to me. I don’t think anything in publishing had moved quickly for me up until that point. Laura is amazing; she put the book in the hands of the right person!

 

 

 

Amy: As most writers know, publishing is a very difficult business. What was the one thing you think you did to garner agent interest?

 

 

Rachel: From my first draft, I knew this book had a great hook, and that my challenge was going to be getting the writing to live up to that hook. I wrote and rewrote several times from a blank page, which I’d never done before. I wrote each character separately to ensure their voices felt distinct. I printed the manuscript several times and did hard copy edits. I had at least 10 readers over the course of the two years I was working on it. This book meant the world to me, and I didn’t want to put it out there until I felt I had done everything I could.

 

 

 

Amy: What can you tell us about “your call” with your agent, Laura Bradford? How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

 

Rachel: Though I’d been represented previously, this manuscript had not been queried. Laura was the first to offer on it in March of 2016. From the moment we got on the phone, I felt so at ease. She was funny and down-to-earth, and my favorite thing she said that made me feel like she got what was I trying to do was something along the lines of, “You don’t really like Adina [one of the twins] because she’s so sharp. But she’s compelling. You root for her.” I feel strongly that (female) characters don’t need to be likable — but they should be interesting. I don’t want to spend 300 pages with a nice, mild character who follows the rules. My characters live in moral gray areas.

 

 

 

Amy: If you were doing a book signing and you met a writer who was about to give up on their publishing dream, what would you say to them? 

 

 

Rachel: I’m going to borrow something I wrote on my own blog for this one :). It took me several books to realize that getting published was what I wanted more than anything else. Every new book made me want it even more. It’s taken me a long time to develop the confidence to be able to say that I have something to say as an author. I’ve spent so much time in my life downplaying my own accomplishments, however small, and I’m trying to take more pride in what I do. We have to be our own best advocates. So I would say this: you are the only person who can write your book. You are the only person who is going to put it out there. You are the only person who’s going to send it to readers and agents and editors. Maybe you need to take a break for a while, and that’s okay. Maybe you need to find new readers, take a class, consult craft books. At times there are more downs than ups, but if this is something you desperately want, you have to keep writing.

 

 

 

 

rachel 2016 3Rachel Lynn Solomon is a Seattle native who loves rainy days, tap dancing, red lipstick, and new wave music. Her debut contemporary YA novel, FINGERS CROSSED, will be out from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse in spring 2018, with a second book to follow in 2019. She’s represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency. You can find Rachel online at rachelsolomonbooks.com and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.

 

 
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