Believe me when I say it was one of the toughest things in my life.
I’d just put down Lisa Jane Smith’s latest book (I can’t be sure, but I think it was Reunion of the Vampire Diaries) when I came up with the idea to write my own fantasy novel. But I was only eighteen, just recently graduated from High School, and I’d never taken any curses on the craft. So what did I know about writing?
Learning by doing became my device. I took paper and pen, sat under a tree and started to write the first few lines. Yeah, right, a pen! Can you believe the first draft of my book was hand-written? Jeez, I don’t even want to think back to that time. I didn’t have a computer then. I didn’t have the internet to give me easy access to information. And when I couldn’t think of the right translation for a word (note that I’m Austrian, English isn’t my first language), I actually used a common dictionary. But these things changed by and by.
On my first computer, I typed what I’d already written into the sketchbook, but I wasn’t a fast typist then. It kind of took ages to write one page, and I almost stopped, when frustration overwhelmed me more than just once, and thought about returning to pen and paper. But now I’m happy to say I endured. And then one day, my husband came home with the prettiest present imaginable. He gave me a laptop. I can’t thank him enough for that.
From then on I could write wherever I wanted, sit outside in the garden or just in the light flooded kitchen and was no longer bound to the small makeshift office in a corner of my bedroom. My writing-time dramatically increased with that option, and soon I had the finished draft of a paranormal romance. YAY go me! Let’s publish it. Right?
Oh, so wrong.
Never before had I heard of anything like a Literary Agent, a synopsis, or worse, submission guidelines. Google became my best friend during those hard weeks of learning. I sat another month to piece together a synopsis and what I thought was a good query letter. I think I queried far over seventy agents after that, and know what? Apart from one partial request, it was all form rejections. In the end I faced the fact that I had spent a nice amount of money on a copy editor, who failed to tell me that my book was all but submission ready.
I kicked things through the room, I whined about the unfairness in the business, and in the end, I simply cried. But then I had to make a choice. Give up and find another hobby? No. Never. Not me. If I can honestly say there’s one thing I am, then it’s stubborn. I had this strange idea of becoming a writer, and I would go through with it till the end.
So I started again. From a different angel this time. I contacted published authors and found a nice few who were willing to share their experiences with me. Shout out! to Karen Docter, who made me understand the importance of being part of a good critique group. I acted on her advice and joined RWA and its special chapter FF&P, where I found another handful of people who became invaluable in my writer life. I’m still unspeakably thankful for the day I met Melissa Stark and Zrinka Jelic.
When I got the first critique for the opening chapter of my book, I thought I was going to break down crying again. Because, let’s face it, a tough critique is like calling your baby ugly. But when I was over the fist shock, I understood the meaning of this possibility. I’d found my first audience as a writer, and there I could see firsthand how readers reacted to my stuff.
I tried to revise my novel on their suggestions, but in the end I found it easier to re-write the entire book. I remember that one weekend when I suddenly heard the voice of my heroine in my mind, and words came out non-stop. Writing became fun again, and my CPs loved the story. They cheered for the hero and heroine which was the greatest motivation of all.
And when I was done with the story this time, I knew it was ready to go out. I was cautious with my query letter, tried to keep it in a voice that reflected the heroine’s, didn’t give away too much at one time, and, for once, stopped going with the main stream. I’d found my voice, my style and my courage again.
When the last time I queried half the marked, this time I chose carefully who I was going to query. Only about fifteen agents and no more than a handful of publishing houses. Want to know that happened? Three agents were interested, and two publishing houses made me an offer straight away. When Lauri from Black Opal Books sent me that actual e-mail, I sat stunned for a second, then skipped through the house, screaming my head off… Valentine’s day, 2012. I’ll never forget that moment.
So yeah, that was pretty much it. We negotiated the contract, and finally I signed. It’s an amazing feeling to place your signature onto a publishing contract; an experience I wish to every aspiring writer out there.
There was only left to choose a good title for my novel, a pen name I could live with for the rest of my life, and creating an enticing cover which would reflect the mood of the story. But these are troubles I will talk about some other time…