This was supposed to be a really great year.
My husband and I moved back to New York, he was going to start at his big, fancy law firm, I was going to give up my job and do some writing and freelance editing while I got back into publishing, and everything was going to be positively delightful. I was querying a contemporary YA manuscript I really loved, and I was sure someone would feel the same way and snatch it up.
Here’s what actually happened.
I gave too much notice when I left my job, and by the time I found out my husband’s start date was being deferred another three months, I’d been replaced. I scrambled to find a new job to no avail, and things with my manuscript didn’t work out all that well either. I finally put my query letter on Absolute Write and discovered just how awful it was. I fixed it, got more requests, and then got more rejections. My husband got deferred again. Then he got laid off the night before he was supposed to start, his big, fancy law firm went bankrupt, we both found ourselves unemployed.
But here’s what else happened.
Last November, I decided to try this little thing called NaNoWriMo. I’d been so attached to my last ms for so long that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to start from the beginning again, but I’d been kicking around the idea for this new ms for months and NaNoWriMo seemed like the perfect way to jump in with both feet. I named the manuscript BEHIND THE SCENES, “won” NaNoWriMo, continued writing until I finished the ms after about seven weeks total, and sent it to two beta readers: my dear friend Chris, who always betas my mss (and vice versa) despite the fact that we write totally different genres, and another friend, who took a YA writing class with me and works in publishing.
You know when you think your manuscript is pretty good but then one of your beta readers tells you she passionately hates things about your manuscript, including your main character, and essentially thinks you should’ve written a totally different book? Yeah, I didn’t either, but that happened. And so I wrote and rewrote and by the time I was done revising, my manuscript had somehow gone from 67,000 words to 77,000. And then I let it sit, feeling like I’d changed it so much that maybe I just needed to step away from it for a while. And then I saw a Tweet about The Writer’s Voice contest.
It was the perfect kick in the butt I needed to finish with my revisions (as if we’re ever really done!).I was slot 70 out of the first 75, and then privileged to be chosen by the lovely Cupid for TeamCupid along with 10 other magnificently talented writers, two of whom have since secured representation, eight of whom will undoubtedly follow soon. I’d never entered a contest before and I was shocked at how all-consuming it was–following comments on Twitter all day, commenting on other people’s entries, revising based on others’ comments on yours… It was an all-day, every day endeavor, and for once, I was actually sort of glad to be unemployed so I could focus all my energy on it.
Thankfully, that paid off, and I made some seriously incredible friends and received two votes on my manuscript, i.e. partial requests. A day after I sent my partial to one of the agents, she requested the full. Twelve days after that, she asked to talk. A day after that, we did. An hour after that, I had to ask the ridiculously awkward, “Um, so, is this an offer?” (And that is the far more articulate version of what actually came out of my mouth. Seriously. The psychological effects on a querying writer of not actually saying the words “I am calling with an offer of representation” are still being studied, but there’s no better response to “is this an offer?” than “I thought that was obvious!” followed by the world’s greatest laugh. That is my contribution to said study.) Ten days after that, I’m thrilled to say that I’ve officially signed with Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc., and cannot wait to begin working with her!
Oh, and I got a job this week too 😉
So to everyone who’s talked me off a ledge, commented on my entry, read my manuscript, passed along my resume, suggested edits for my query letter, and just generally been the world’s most fantastic cheerleaders, thank you, thank you, thank you. And to those feeling like it’ll never happen, for the love of God or Jose Cuervo or whatever keeps you going, don’t give up. Because when everything does turn around, it all feels pretty damn worth it.