Are you sick of posts about writing yet?
Sorry, I’m kinda not.
Someone asked me on IG about how I went about getting published. Whelp, the short version is I uploaded a word.docx file on Amazon and pressed published.
The long version goes like this (it’s a really long version):
In January of 2011 I was giving 150% to my family, but I was giving about 10% to myself. (No, I’ve never been good at math, that’s why I am a writer.) And that 10% only sometimes included a shower. I honestly was mostly washing my face with my own tears. Family life was very complicated and very messy.
I don’t look back at that time and think I was necessarily depressed, I was just trying so damn hard to make things work. Life is hard! I know every single one of you reading this has been through a shitty season and just don’t even know how you actually got through it. (Or maybe you are there right now, in that place, and I wish you could come over to my house; I’d dig some Swisher Sweets out of my underwear drawer and pour you a glass of cheap white wine and we could sit on my front steps until our feet froze, but our hearts thawed. Love, I’m virtually doing that with you, right now.)
So basically I was like, I’ve gotta do something. For me. I didn’t want that time in life to define me. I wanted to define me. I wanted to be the version of myself I dreamed of being, my truest self. I just needed a place to channel the ideas, fears, dreams, passion, and hope I felt.
So I decided to start writing books because I’d always loved to read and dreamed of writing an actual novel. (I’d spent a few years blogging, mostly about the adoption process my family went through, and had taken a few online courses through Gotham Writers Workshop, but nothing substantial, and I have a general ed AA, nothing fancy-pants).
At first I wrote some non-fiction, self-help, picture books. I wrote about ten of them and went to a writing conference held by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency in California and the agents there were like, Um, that is never going to sell. No one wants that. (insert lots of newbie-author tears).
I really liked these books. I wanted to write something for kids in hard places, because I had kids from hard places and I couldn’t find any book that connected with the hurt in their hearts. Well, apparently they weren’t commercial enough.
In some ways I understood that. And as I flew home (with I’ve-just-been-rejected tears on my cheeks) from that conference I decided what really wanted was to write a story that predated my kids from trauma. I realized what I really wanted to write was a book for my children’s birth mom, the book I wish she could have read as a young adult. The book that said, You are this amazing person, because you are alive. A book that said our choices don’t have to define us. A book that said we are more than our sum.
Now I know that sounds really heavy. But what came of that idea is the story I am most proud of writing, and my first young adult novel titled You Are Lovely (releasing May 14, 2015). The initial draft took four months to write, all during afternoon nap time. That season holds a very special place in heart. It was when I was first able to mutter the words, I wrote a novel.
Soon after, I joined a monthly critique group, and from that began attending a weekly group, and bought a laptop! In the six months after completing You Are Lovely, I had a few false starts, but about a year later I wrote a novel in verse titled You Are Brave (releasing May 28, 2015). While this is not a series or a companion novel, it is similar in theme.
I queried both of these novel to over 70 literary agents with ZERO RESPONSE. I wallowed. I cried. Lots, I think. It’s hard to remember how many tears, but I’m sure anyone who hung out with me during this time could roll their eyes and be like, OMG ANYA IS ONLY TALKING ABOUT NOT HAVING AN AGENT! But in other ways I was also feeling pretty badass. I had written two novels!
After that I was like, Woah Nelly! This is some intense stuff going on here in these Word files! How about I write something a little less issue-driven? What about something with all my favorite things? Like cults & polygamy & magic & the apocalypse & hot prophets (is that a thing?) & cutie-pie cowboys! So after spending about six months brainstorming and plotting and making a very thorough outline, I wrote a trilogy. The first book is Flicker (releasing March 5, 2015), the second is Glimmer (releasing March 19, 2015), and the third is Glow (releasing April 5, 2015). (Preorder here, here, and here!)
By this point it was the summer of 2013 and I was feeling pretty good about my trilogy. Friends had beta read book one, I had polished and shined and made the book so very pretty. I batch queried agents this time because I was like, I do not want to wait months on end for a response and stall out on new projects.
This time around I actually had some response. This was awesome! I sent out some partials, and then one day I got an email from the agent that I actually really, really wanted to represent me. He wanted more! And then a few weeks later he called me and I was like REALLY CRYING NOW because I had queried 68 agents with Flicker and no one had offered representation and then he did. And I was so happy. Mostly because his assistant and him had read the novel and I was like, PEOPLE READ MY BOOK! PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW ME! This was amazing, I was flying, on cloud nine, and all that.
Family life was no different at this point. Things were still messy BECAUSE THAT IS LIFE! Finding my voice through writing stories didn’t change any of the messiness, it just ALTERED MY RESPONSE. My world was no longer defined by the things that I could not control. I decided to be defined by the things I could, to the best of my abilities. And I also decided I wanted this— to be a published author. I wanted it more than anything else. I poured my heart and soul on the page, everyday, in hopes that my words would tell a story that mattered. That my dream would come true.
While my agent began revisions, I began writing the novel Heart of Stone (releasing April 16,2015) and finished 6 weeks later. Then I wrote The Dream Catcher (releasing next Thursday! February 19, 2015) and finished in December of 2013. At this point I still hadn’t received revision notes from my agent. When I told him I’d drafted two more novels he told me to slow down. I had my first inklings that, Hmmm maybe this isn’t a good match. Sure, I write fast first drafts, but I needed this to be seen as an asset.
In February of 2014 he gave me my first revisions. Unfortunately it was only on the first 20k of the novel. Umm okkkkaay, I thought. I can make this work. And I did. I poured my blood, sweat, AND LOTS MORE TEARS into making that story as amazing as I could. Three months later he requested more revisions, and you better believe I worked my ass off on them too. I was also drafting a new novel, The Shadow & The Sheen (releasing April 30, 2015), and worked between projects on that. I finished The Shadow book in May of 2014. I did more revisions for Flicker and sent them off July of 2014. In August and September I wrote For Sure & Certain (released February 5, 2015).
In November I still hadn’t received new editorial notes regarding Flicker. I was over it, the stall out and the waiting and the not moving forward. At this point I had nine beta-read, in-super-good-shape novels that I had workshopped with my critique partners. So in an enormous act of bravery I parted ways (insert MORE TEARS) with my agent. It was amicable, but not at all easy. I had put so much faith in that relationship. I wanted it to succeed.
So, pulling up my bootstraps I submitted Flicker to Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. After thirty days I had another rejection to add to my mounting pile. At this point it was January 1st, and I decided my word for the year was RELEASE and I was no longer going to wait for anyone else to make my dreams happen.
ARE YOU STILL READING THIS???
Self-publishing has always been on my radar. A few of my critique partners had found great success with their SP’ing careers. They were happy and empowered and not at all bitter and they were writing and doing what they loved and it was all on their terms.
I wanted that. That sort of bravery. The bravery that comes with saying this is my story and I’m offering it to you and if I died tomorrow I would rather it be in the world than be on my hard drive. And so I took a leap and a deep breath and uploaded a word.docx file and pressed publish.
Well, first I hired a copy editor and proofreader. I got input on covers and learned how to create a goodreads giveaway.
But here’s the thing friends, after having been a published author for one short week, I’m reminded that none of it is easy. Like, at all. The time it took to get here, and the road I see stretched out ahead of me— it’s not a sprint, this is a freaking marathon.
But isn’t everything worth anything, hard? This dream chasing is tough stuff. That’s why we need people on the sidelines cheering us on, and parters who say you need to train and friends who meet to map out a course of action. And I know— these running metaphors are getting weird because I am not a runner, like at all, but I think you get my point. My path toward publication was not roses and unicorns and that’s okay, in fact that’s kinda the beauty.
I am so proud of the fact that four years ago I decided I wanted more for myself, because that was the hardest part of this entire journey. In The Dream Catcher, the main character Penny asks, “Who would I be if I gave into the possibility of being myself?” For me, that’s what this is about, asking the question and then taking the risks involved in finding the answer.
My greatest hope for readers, and friends, and anyone, basically, is that you ask yourself that question and then take the chance on finding the answer. You are worth it. You are so completely worth it. <3