For Writers

Every writer’s journey to publication is different. Here is mine.

I started writing in Fall 2000, when my friend Christy asked me whether I wanted to go through The Weekend Novelist and be writing buddies with her. I fell in love with writing as we completed the assignments and activities. I printed out celebrity pictures and attached them to character sketches. I had a whole notebook, written in sparkly gel pen, with possible character dreams, a character’s bedroom layout, and a chapter-by-chapter outline of my first book. I would write between classes and after marching band practice and at night and every spare moment.

This first book was one of many I wrote in college. I eventually attempted to publish the first book. (Back in 2002/2003, email queries weren’t very common, so I checked out volumes of publisher anthologies and sent snail mail queries with SASEs.) Many rejections later, I gave up querying.

Fast forward six years. I’d gotten married, had a steady job, joined my first critique group, and had a stronger urge to be published. I wrote a YA fantasy, The Prophecy Box, during NaNoWriMo 2008. I queried it, and after several rejections, decided to self-publish it. I made ALL the self-pub mistakes. I didn’t know what I was doing. But it made me happy, and in summer of 2009, I had a launch party and a book in hand.

However, after a year of trying to market it on my own, while struggling to write the sequel, I recognized all the self-pub mistakes I’d made and decided traditional publishing might be better for me. So, I embarked on a mission to write a great book, hook an agent, and get a book deal. It was slow. I joined a new critique group and spent the next five years writing and revising and re-revising the sequel to The Prophecy Box. During that time, I had two kids, disgruntled feelings about my day job, and a lot of personal problems.

When I was pregnant with my third child (circa 2015), I came across a FB post that my friend G.F. Miller had written three books in the past year and was already querying. I met with her because, somewhere between 2010-2015, I’d become a writer who kept revising and re-revising. I tried to figure out what she was doing differently. Turns out, it wasn’t anything different really (because writers write books and there’s nothing different about that). But what might have helped was her critique group, the Charglings. One member had a book coming out the following year with Scholastic (Mary E. Lambert’s Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes, Feb 2016), and the others were driven to publish . I needed this group so much! (Not to knock my other critique group because they are wonderful women, but this group fitted my wants and needs better.)

I joined the Charglings and submitted my YA fantasy sequel for critique, only to realize that it needed A LOT more work. I also realized the fantasy world wasn’t very original, and I hadn’t put in the work to develop the world. I decided to shelve it. It was devastating…FIVE YEARS OF WORK! But, looking back, it was the best thing for my writing because it freed me to work on something new, a YA contemporary (which was also eventually shelved).

BUT THEN (I promise it gets happier), after I had my third child, I participated in NaNoWriMo 2016. I poured my heart and memories into a MG contemporary about a 11yo girl who couldn’t cope with her father dying from cancer. I drew from my own experience when my father died from pancreatic cancer. NaNoWriMo 2016 was a magical month. My heart was ready to tell this story. It flew onto the page. I called the story MIRACLE, and its journey is kind of a miracle.

I revised MIRACLE with the Charglings and submitted it to Pitch Wars in 2017. I was mentored by  #teammascaratracks’ Cindy Baldwin and Amanda Rawson Hill (who are AMAZING!). They sent an edit letter, and I revised.

My entire author trajectory changed because of them (a complete miracle). All of a sudden, I had 180 other mentees in the same place as me. We cheered each other on and provided words of encouragement from across the world. I was able to meet fellow #teammascaratracks co-mentee Remy Lai, who has published several books that my kids and I absolutely adore. I was able to attend Cindy and Amanda’s debut book launches. I’ve connected with so many authors I never would have known. I can’t say enough positive things about Pitch Wars.

Unfortunately, I did not receive an agent offer during the agent round, but I did receive good feedback. So, I revised again with the deadline of #DVPit in April 2018. During #DVPit, MIRACLE hooked my agent Andrea Cascardi (another miracle!). She is editorial and professional, and she helps my writing so much. After a couple short rounds of revision, we went on submission. We got an initial bite from Christy Ottaviano, but we waited until all the rejections rolled in. In October 2018, we went to Christy, who wanted more revisions (an R&R). I rewrote MIRACLE entirely (during more personal problems and while I was at a new job). All that work paid off because Christy loved it and made an offer. And now, Miracle is my debut, which released March 28, 2023.

Writer Resources:

  • National Novel Writing Month — Every November, thousands of writers embark on the same goal: to write 50,000 words in one month. The community is fantastic, the peer pressure great, and MIRACLE wouldn’t exist without it. Learn more here.
  • Writing Plot: I still struggle with plot basics, and Writing Excuses has an excellent article about what a typical 7-point plot looks like.
  • Save the Cat Plot: Originally created for screenwriters, the Save the Cat! story-structure method provides compelling tips and tricks to make your novel as riveting as a movie—because whether you’re writing a fantasy series, a romance, or the next Great American Novel, every captivating story throughout time (from Jane Austen to Agatha Christie) has the same 15 essential plot points, or “beats.” I’ve used the Save the Cat outlines more times than I can count.
  • Writing Characters: Sometimes writers don’t have all the answers, but K.M. Weiland’s article can help a writer develop character-building answers and tie it into the plot.
  • Querying Help: For querying writers, Query Shark is a huge repository of successful queries, tips for dos and don’ts, and crafting a good query.
  • After the agent OFFER email: When you set up THE CALL with a prospective agent, you’ll have a million questions. Cindy Baldwin has a list of fantastic questions to ask to make sure you and your prospective agent are a great fit.
  • SCBWI: Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators (SCBWI) is a great group of aspiring authors and published authors. “It’s a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people.”