Since I'm always interested in how people get published, I thought I'd share my experience with you, because my dream took a long time to bear out. Sweat and tears, too (no blood, but it felt like it). One week before my agent's phone call, I seriously thought of quitting.
Here's what my journey looked like:
- I've always written for fun and even as a young child, I dreamed of seeing my name on a book cover. In high school I wrote romances about my friends. The longest running was a Regency about my friend Laura. Around that time, I first articulated that I'd love to write romance and/or YA someday in the far off future while I stayed home with my kids.
- It wasn't until I was pregnant with Kid #2 in 2001 that I started writing a Regency-set romance. I wrote during Kid #1's naptimes, little bits every day. Writing was my dream, and now that I had a bit of spare time, I wanted to give it a try.
- I joined Romance Writers of America to gain information about the craft and the industry, but I soon found that writing and taking care of little ones was difficult. It works well for some people, but I grew frustrated. With prayer I decided to put my writing on hold for a while, until my babies were a bit older.
- When my youngest started elementary school, I started another novel and, utterly clueless as to whether or not it was worth anything, I decided I should get feedback on it. I entered it into RWA's Faith, Hope &; Love Chapter's 2008 Touched by Love Contest. To my shock, the story finaled, and while I didn't win, that final gave me encouragement, hope, and validation. I decided to keep on writing and see what happened.
- The next year, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers and entered a second novel into the Touched by Love contest. To my delight, it also finaled, and I made contacts, including the women of the Inkwell Inspirations blog.
- In 2009, I attended a small workshop run by an agent. Since I don't live near an ACFW or RWA chapter, this was my first time gathering with other fiction writers. After reading their stuff, I felt inferior and I knew I had a lot to learn. I gained experience pitching to an editor, however, and while she rejected the proposal, I learned about the industry and the craft of writing.
- I entered other contests, but did not final. One judge gave me a score of 50/100. This was the first time I cried over my writing, but it wasn't the last. I learned that writing requires vulnerability, a teachable spirit, and a determination to keep going. If I was going to be a writer, I had to keep writing and keep growing.
- Through entering and finaling in another contest, I received an editor request for my first novel. Happy dance! I worked hard to present my best. Unfortunately, it was not selected, but the editor wrote me a super nice, thoughtful three-page rejection letter, encouraging me to keep going. I realized it was a good thing that book didn't get published, as it had some serious issues!
- I submitted a devotional to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotionals for Mothers. It was accepted! I was paid for something I'd written--a first.
- I entered a third novel the ACFW Genesis contest and was amazed when it finaled. I didn't win; I probably came in last place among the finalists. A final-round judge scored me with a 50/100 (that humiliating score again), which broke my heart. I wondered if I was fooling myself, thinking I could be an author.
- I started two new projects. Friends signed contracts and I rejoiced with them, but I also realized I might not ever publish. I kept putting my writing into God's hands, snatching it back, and trying again to trust Him. I knew that if I wrote for Him, I should be content writing and never publishing. But because I'm broken, I fought against that. I still do.
- I finaled/won the Gotcha! and Phoenix Rattler with my reworked Regency. I felt more confident, but again, when an editor requested the full and took it to committee, it was declined.
- Again I felt as if I was at a crossroads. Should I keep going or just stop? I'd made no money, only spent it on contests. With a heaviness, I decided God hadn't told me to quit yet so I would keep writing.
- In 2012 I was introduced to agent Tamela Hancock Murray and to my astonishment and delight, she liked the novel I sent to her! She offered me a contract. This was one of those things in life that I still can't get over. I'd long wanted her to represent me.
- I attended a national RWA convention. I pitched to a few editors and learned a lot from the workshops. Not a lot of nibbles on the manuscript, though.
- To get more feedback, I entered the Genesis again, this time in the new Novella category. I had been writing a novella for a collection with some of my Inkwell friends and wanted feedback. Unfortunately, the Novella category folded and my entry was placed into the Historical Romance category--typically one of the most-entered categories in the contest, which meant there would be lots of tough competition. I knew I had no chance.
- The story, One Word From You, finaled in the Historical Romance category. Surely it wouldn't win, because, well, I reckoned it's a novella.
- I attended ACFW 2013 in Indianapolis. I met friends. Learned from workshops. And to my utter astonishment, my novella won the Genesis. This was a highpoint of my life!
- For the next several months, I submitted proposals. I wrote. I read books on writing and dialogue and plot. I received rejections. A bunch of them. Other Genesis winners sold. Other friends sold. I didn't. I spoke to my husband about me getting a job. (He said to keep writing.)
- July 11, 2014, something cracked in me. I'd had moments of self-pity, doubt and grief over my writing before, but this was different. I sobbed at my computer. This isn't working. Maybe it's not meant to be. I want God's will and not my own, but oh how I want my will, too!
- I got ready to go on vacation with my family. I admit I was thinking the break from writing would do me good. I planned to return home refreshed and ready to seek where the Lord would lead me.
- July 18, 2014 I got a call from Tamela saying I'd sold a story, and you can read the rest of the story in the previous post.
But the journey isn't over. It's just that today, after a lifetime of writing for fun, thirteen years after briefly dipping my toes into the waters of writing toward publication, and six years seriously writing,
I sold a story.
I'm glad God kept the door open for me to keep writing. And I'm glad I didn't give up. We'll see what's in store for the future. Meanwhile, I've got more work--on my stories and on myself--to do.