Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Writer's Epiphany

I've been working on a manuscript non-stop since last July. The idea came to me on a family trip to Chicago while visiting the famed Field Museum. Once the plot bunny worked its power into the crevices of my brain, it was very hard to shake. On the long plane ride home, I spent several hours using my beat sheets to plan the entire book I wanted to write chapter-by-chapter.

In and of itself the book took me six months to write. By December of last year the first draft was written. It was the quickest book I had ever written. The story was inside me screaming to get out, and it took everything for me to close my laptop at night because I wanted to tell this story so badly.

For the next several months, I polished my words and then sent the manuscript to five of my most trusted CPs. With the way my heart thrummed when I sent those emails, you would have thought I was submitting the story to agents or publishers. These were just my CPs. My trusted friends. But it was sharing the manuscript that put me on the verge of nausea. Why? Because this story felt like part of my DNA. It had woven itself into my heart and soul, and I wanted everyone to love it as much as I did.

When the first notes came back, I was terrified to open the emails. What if my CPs hated the story? What if they told me it was a mess? I didn't want to hear it if it was true.

Now let me step back a bit. I've written several manuscripts and been lucky enough to have a few short stories published. While I loved all those stories, they were ideas that popped into my head, and I wrote about. Did I care about them? Yes. Was I so wrapped up in them that I dreamt about the characters at night? Absolutely not. My point? I knew this manuscript was different. It was a love letter to readers and to my family. It was a story that demanded to be told, and the fear that it may not effect others as much as it did me was a terrifying thought.

Luckily enough the notes that came back were tough but positive. My characters needed more detail and some of my dialogue was rough. I knew it was coming, and I welcomed the feedback. The good news was that at its core, my story was solid, and that's what I needed to hear.

With notes in hand, that first draft went from 62,000 words to 68,000 words. I sent the revisions to two more CPs and waited for feedback. More notes came in, and I polished again. I finally felt like this manuscript was ready to query.

In March, I went into the query trenches and entered some contests. Since then, I have been an anxious wreck, checking my email literally every two minutes. I know a lot of you feel my pain here. Now, I'm not kidding myself. There is the realization that my story is not everyone's cup of tea. It's not the YA dark, gritty contemporary, or Middle Grade friendship tale, so many agents are looking for. It's a YA Historical with a lot of true story elements to it. I went into writing this knowing it would have to hit the right agent at the right time, so I don't have any unreal expectations about what might happen with this manuscript.

It's been a few weeks now, and the requests, and of course rejections, have started rolling in. As usual they are hard to take, and I've started to wonder (and doubt) whether the story was ready to send. After some reassurances from my CPs, I sat down and read the manuscript one final time - and here's where I had my epiphany. The unknowns are still out there. If all my requests come back as rejections, then I go back and revise where agents have told me the story is lacking. And then I submit to more agents. I'll stay on this merry-go-round for however long it takes, and consider all the publishing paths available. Whatever happens one thing is clear to me: I am committed to getting this story published.

It's amazing the weight that has been lifted off my shoulders since I came to this realization. In the end, I can't control whether agents and publishers will adore this manuscript as much as I do. What I can control is the end game of this story. If things don't work out in my favor, I can shelve this manuscript OR I can fulfill my dream and make sure it gets published so that I can share this story with as many readers as I can reach. Because in the end, as writers, isn't that what we all want? To share our creation with others. To fill readers' minds with magical words and extraordinary characters. That's what I want, and now more than ever, I am committed to making that happen.


  1. I have seen your Twitter pitch and the story sounds fascinating! Reminds me a bit of CODE NAME VERITY, at least the girl pilot aspect.

    Your passion for this story makes me think it is "the one." Can hardly wait to see your book in print. : )

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I really appreciate your kind words. One day I hope it will be on the shelves!!

  2. I think lots of us know how you feel. Best of luck.

  3. Thank you, Beth. It's always good to know you're not alone in the query trenches!

  4. Go NBS! You've written a beautiful & unique story--I'm rooting for you! And for Grace & Henry too, of course!!

  5. I know your passion will carry over and become the passion of the perfect agent for your story.

  6. Great post. "I'll stay on this merry-go-round for however long it takes." Thanks for that line especially. There are many days when I want to give up. It helps me to hear those words, and today you reminded me to stay on the merry-go-round. Fingers crossed and best of luck and break a leg and all those expressions of hope to you and your story! I hope to read it soon :)


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