I told someone a story tonight, and it reminded me that I needed to finish this series of posts!
I last shared that we had had a horrible year of loss and change. My family had just moved to central Florida. Within a few months, the job that had brought us down there ended; the economy was beginning to tank, and since my husband was the last hired. . .well, you know the rest.
Our first year passed in a blur; we had visitors, we got through holidays. I traveled with my sister to Maui to spread my parents’ ashes. As a family, we drove across the country and back on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
In late July of 2008, I had just returned from a wedding in California and a trip to New Jersey. My husband was beginning seminary. And everything seemed to catch up with me. I came down with a virus that I just couldn’t shake. My doctor recognized exhaustion and ordered me to bed for two weeks.
Next to my bed were two books I’d been meaning to read. In utter boredom, I picked up the first one. . .and I was hooked. It was Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I tore through it and then through New Moon (I sobbed; clearly it was a much-needed catharsis). And then I broke doctor’s orders and drove to the bookstore to get Eclipse. I kept telling my daughters that they needed to read these books, but only my oldest showed any interest.
After I finished the third book, I had about a four week wait until the release of Breaking Dawn. I was missing that rush from the romance and drama of these books; I hadn’t read YA lit since I WAS a young adult, over twenty years earlier. Devouring information on line about Twilight, I read Meyer’s story of writing the books, and it struck a chord.
Just like thousands of other women, I thought, I could do that.
I still had all the character sketches and story ideas I’d saved for twenty plus years. One was especially appealing to me, and taking a page (pun intended) from Stephenie Meyer’s experience, I didn’t try to start at the beginning. Instead I wrote a chapter right in the middle, where Tasmyn and Michael are at Lake Rosu and she is telling him the story of her life.
I finished it, and then I began to write from there on. . .and then I went back and wrote the beginning. I knew roughly where the story was going, but a few twists, turns and new characters came along.
I didn’t tell anyone much. After all, I had written before without it going anywhere. And I liked having this shiny new project all to myself. I took my laptop everywhere with me: to doctors’ appointments, hair salon visits, baseball practices. . .I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning.
The first people I tentatively shared my story with were my two middle daughters. I told them a little about it as we drove to the grocery store or library, and their enthusiasm fueled my passion to finish. My daughter Catie in particular was determined to help me by guarding my writing time. In return, all she asked for was a yellow Porsche once I was published. She always did dream big!
While waiting for the release of Breaking Dawn, I had joined an on-line community called Twilight Moms. That autumn, someone began a thread there called “Did TWILIGHT inspire you to write your own book?” The originator of the thread and I began chatting, and together we launched a separate group and site called Twi-Writers (I know, very original). Having that accountability and cheering section was awesome and changed my life.
I wrote the last lines in late October, and I played with the story for a little while. The title came to me shortly before I finished, inspired by the Taylor Swift song. I printed out copies and put them in binders for my daughters and my sister and gave them as Christmas gifts.
I didn’t know quite what to do next. I researched the publishing process at the same time I was writing the second book, Breathless.
Querying, I found, was not nearly as fun as writing a book. Neither was struggling over a synopsis, a blurb or any number of the other things all the books said I needed to do. But I did them. And I wasn’t surprised when the rejections rolled in. In the meantime, I kept writing, finishing Breathless in late 2009.
In 2010, I wrote Restless, and our life had become so much busier that I actually had to go away from home to finish it. I continued to query, but I was trying to get smarter about it. I had delved into social media, and I began chatting on line with some agents and editors. Their input helped me tweak Fearless.
By that autumn, when I traveled to New York City for the Backspace Conference, I had a new beginning and a new query letter. I had a few agents express interest and ask me to query them, but what I mostly took away was how subjective the process really was. One group of agents and editors loved my opening pages. Another did not. There was no rhyme or reason; just the way it went.
What I took away from that conference would ultimately influence a huge shift in my publishing paradigm.