How I Got Here
As far back as I can remember, I wrote. As a child, poetry was my secret journal. The one code no one could figure out. I dabbled in novel writing, excelling at character sketching and plot outlining, but lost interest by chapter two.
During college, I loved writing essays. A Finance major who cherished her liberal arts electives. After graduation, I spent my days as a management consultant doing business writing.
At night I kept a journal, which spiraled into my first attempt at a novel. I read somewhere the first book should be all about you. I’ve never tried to publish it. It’s the one that I happily keep under my bed.
I headed to grad school in California to write 30-50 page thesis papers on politics and international relations. I dreamed of moving to China and becoming fluent in Mandarin. I still wrote poetry, but nothing grabbed my attention long enough to commit to another novel. I figured I was a poet, unpublished but prolific. Maybe novel writing wasn’t my thing.
After graduation, life rejected my plan and took it’s own path. I ended up returning to the financial sector in New York and to business writing.
A particularly long day filled with conference calls turned into a night of me mourning the end of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Harry and Hermione. I wanted characters that didn’t leave. But how could I have that? I’d have to write my own novel. No. Scratch that. A series of novels. Ambitious? Certainly. Typical for me? Pretty much.
I outlined the book and the characters based off of a concept a friend and I had as children. The twelve-page outline flew from my fingertips. My excitement grew as my mind imagined all the high points of the story. I found the much needed escape from the minutia of my daily life. This time I didn’t stop writing after chapter two. In six months, I had a terribly wordy draft of Reckonings.
I needed to learn how to craft a better novel.
To understand what made me stay up all night to finish a book, I feasted on dozens of New York Times Bestsellers. I took a highlighter to the pages of Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel. I drafted query letters and synopses. I cold queried. Nothing happened.
Well, besides a string of form letter rejections. I started reading agent blogs. Finally, I took a leap and attended my first conference, the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar. There, I learned how much I didn’t know I didn’t know.
My word count remained way too high for a first book. But I was too close to my writing to see what could be cut, so I diligently read The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. With my editor cap squashed against my head, I hacked away at the redundancies, cutting over 10,000 words.
I figured out my book was a YA paranormal mystery. Great, I had my genre. Progress. I joined MWA, Backspace, RWA, and SCBWI. I enrolled in a couple of online Writer’s Digest seminars and classes. I won an E-Bay auction, gaining invaluable feedback from Irene Goodman on my first fifty pages. I retooled the entire manuscript again. I think by that point I was on version 59. (Check out my blog for updates on this novel, Reckonings.)
For a side project, I wrote a short story for a contest. I submitted it and thought I was done. I didn’t win, but the characters wouldn’t leave me alone. They demanded their own novel, so I drafted The Six Train to Wisconsin. It was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist.
I don’t like wondering what’s next so I started drafting another book.
The stories keep coming to me and I keep capturing them on paper. Each one teaches me more than I ever thought I could learn.