I really enjoy going through my old journals when I write posts like this one, and so today I thought it would be fun for me to look specifically at the history of my writing "career" so far. Calling it a career is a bit strong, given that I've yet to be published and earn money from my books, but I've put in a lot of work--and I certainly intend to make it a career. Everybody has to start somewhere, and I'm still in the beginning phases of my career right now.
I've talked before about the very beginning here, where I discuss how my love for words and stories led me to do a writing project in the first grade where I discovered my passion. From then on, I was a writer. I began with journals (which were rather inconsistent until the fifth/sixth grades), short stories, and poetry. Some of this work was published, and you can see my credits in my achievement list posts. However, as time passed, I was drawn towards something bigger. I am and always have been a voracious reader, and even from the beginning, I wanted to write real, full-length books like the ones I loved. I wanted to see my writing on the library shelves.
So around fourth grade, which was a tumultuous time for me, what with my family moving to a new town and me having a mental breakdown over bees, I began trying to write a novel. I didn't know then that books were classified by word count, so for me, the goal was to reach 100 pages. I wrote story after story without reaching my goal: stories about superheroic girl friends facing natural disasters, about lone orphan girls lost in atmospheric forests, about epic romances between sweet boys and magic girls.
Finally, in the middle of sixth grade, I finished my first 100 page book, THE DRAGON SLAYERS, for which my working title hashtag might have been #DragonStory. It was a MG fantasy about a group of girls fighting against dragon poachers who were destroying their magical home, and it was based off of the imaginary game my friends and I had been playing at recess. I was so thrilled to finally have a book written. I printed it out, with a copyright page and all, and gave it to my friends to read. I "hired" one of them to do illustrations and then fired her for another friend I thought drew better. Then a younger girl who had attached herself to our group got mad at me for the title, thinking that my heroes were the dragon slayers. I reacted very reasonably and professionally; I threw away the printed copy and erased the document from my family's computer.
Then I moved right along to my next book, which I finished towards the end of sixth grade. #IceEnchantressStory was another MG fantasy inspired this time by my dreams. It followed an orphan girl journeying to save her remaining family and her magical kingdom from an evil ice enchantress. I was proud of this new book and determined to get it published. Fortunately, my gifted and talented program at school had decided to find us mentors. I and another girl were put together with a publicist who had worked with minor publishing companies. She taught us about query letters and submitting to literary agents and publishers. I was restless to the point of irritating our mentor, but when she read my book, she told me she was impressed. She started looking at me differently, and I could tell she believed that I might actually be capable of doing this.
I graduated elementary school and confidently began querying both publishers and agents,. (I didn't really understand the function of an agent then, and I didn't know that the big publishers I was submitting to only accepted submissions from agents.) I had every intention of getting published before middle school started. My mom had strict parental controls on the Internet that kept me from doing any research, and I wasn't allowed to have my own email address, so I submitted from her email with the help of our library's latest copy of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. I got replies from almost everyone I submitted to, which is rare, though I didn't know that then. Of all the rejections I've received, I was most upset by Scholastic's reply to #IceEnchantressStory, where they informed me that they didn't publish children because said children might be embarrassed about their writing when they were older. AGEISM! *shakes fist*
In total, I sent out to and was rejected by 12 publishers and agents. In the meantime, I made a disastrous attempt at collaboration with the other writer from my gifted and talented program. It ended when she called my crush and told him I liked him. He did not like me back. It broke my heart. More happily, I managed to convince my mom to allow me on the Scholastic Write It boards, a collection of heavily moderated discussion boards for young writers. There, I learned the function of a literary agent and the fact that editing was a thing that writers had to do. I also began making new friends from across the U.S., some of whom are my best writing friends today.
I also started writing a handful of new books, which I finished all in a row during seventh grade. #FourElementsStory was an MG fantasy based off of a new game my friends and I were playing at recess, where we each had an elemental power we used against the natural disaster of the week. #SplitStory was a original MG that combined a fantasy kingdom where ghosts were being mind-controlled with a sci-fi multiverse. #ApocalypseStory was a part-original part-game MG sci-fi/fantasy about a psychic girl making a deal with Time to undo the virus-caused destruction of the Earth. #MiddleSchoolStory was an MG contemporary that I trunked right away because it was more or less identical to my real-life struggle with bullies.
I set to work editing, now that I knew it was something I had to do, I shared my manuscripts with my real life and online friends, and this time, I wanted critique. Most the time, I handled that criticism well, though there were occasional crying fits. In eighth grade, I wrote three more books. #FairytaleStory was a YA fantasy fairytale retelling about four princesses rediscovering their destroyed kingdom. #DreamlandStory was an original MG fantasy novel about a plot to destroy the land of dreams. #PsychicStory was a YA fantasy novel about two psychic teens going on a journey/fighting a war to be reunited after one of them is kidnapped by a secret psychic society.
Almost as soon as I finished #PsychicStory, I knew I had my next big project on my hands. I was really passionate about it, and so were my friends! So after I graduated from middle school, I started submitting to agents again. This time, I was able to convince my mom to give me my own email address (firstname.lastname@example.org, good stuff🐬) and more access to agency websites with updated submission guidelines. I knew a lot more now about how the industry worked. I had a new copy of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market and high, high hopes (for a living). I had every intention of getting published before I graduated high school.
I received 46 rejections, 4 requests for more material, 1 "acceptance" from a scam agency, and 1 R&R with the promise of future representation. I went back and forth with the agent on the R&R throughout tenth grade, and I learned a lot more about how to edit my writing. (I also learned about the existence of passive voice.) But then the agent stopped responding to my emails. After a few months, I decided to start submitting #PsychicStory to other agents again. I wouldn't find out until years later that the agency I'd been working with had shut down.
In eleventh grade, I finally trunked #PsychicStory. In the meantime, I had written my first book series. #ChosenFourStory was a four-part YA sci-fi series about four psychic teens on the run from a brutal government agency. It quickly became my next passion project. My mom had granted me access to Facebook at last, and someone from Write It managed to track the rest of us down despite not knowing our real names. For the first time, I could communicate with my writing friends outside of the moderated discussion boards! They cheered me on in my work with #ChosenFourStory. I had more beta readers for that series than I've had for any other piece!
I started submitting #ChosenFourStory to agents in twelfth grade. I had finished all four books already, not knowing that this is not recommended due to the likelihood of extensive edits and incomplete contracts. I had my fingers crossed that I'd get published before I graduated college. In the end, I received 26 rejections for the series. While I was submitting it, I started volunteering as a founding member of Ch1Con, a young writers conference that one of my most high-achieving Write It friends created. I also graduated from high school and got a website--this website! I'd meant to create it as a guide to #ChosenFourStory, just testing out website design with no intention of putting it on the Internet until I had a book deal. I accidentally published it, so I decided I might as well go ahead and start blogging!
During my freshman year of college, with a lot of wistful regret, I made the decision to trunk #ChosenFourStory. I had written three more books that could have been my next submission project. #FibromyalgiaStory was a YA contemporary novel inspired by the diagnosis I'd received in 2011. #PsychicDystopiaStory was a YA fantasy sequel that took place centuries after #PsychicStory, in a post-collapse future where psychics had to retreat to another secret kingdom to avoid genocide. #ProphecyStory is a YA fantasy about a Chosen One and his best friend being pulled towards different futures as revolutionaries show them what their country and religion were like before the dictator took over.
I wasn't sure which project to go with, but finally I started submitting #ProphecyStory. By now, I'd lost a lot of my naivety about how quickly and how successfully my writing career was going to happen, which meant I'd also lost a lot of my hope and passion. It was hard, facing all the rejections. It was hard, knowing that it could be years before I got anywhere. I didn't feel like the book I was submitting was "The One" that would get me published anymore, and so I couldn't celebrate the submission process the way I had before. I got 25 rejections in total for #ProphecyStory.
While I submitted, though, I kept writing. I got paid for some freelance work online, mostly blog posts and articles, and I wrote most of #AfterworldStory, a YA fantasy trilogy that began with a girl who, as the literal daughter of God, had been sent to Earth to learn mercy so she could be a judge in the afterlife. In my junior year of college, I switched tracks and submitted #FibromyalgiaStory to two agents, both of whom rejected it. I wrote #OCDStory, which was the last book I was able to finish before my chronic illness crisis hit. (As you probably know, #OCDStory is a YA contemporary novel about a teen girl's struggle with OCD, as told from the perspective of the OCD itself. It's inspired by my experience with the mental illness, which I was diagnosed with during my sophomore year of college.) With #OCDStory, I felt once again like I might have written The One--but as my illnesses worsened, my ability to write and edit diminished.
During my worst period, the year after college, I was able to write a novel-length Scarlet Vision fanfiction (my first experience with fanfiction!), but I couldn't find the strength to work on my original stories. Since then, as my disability level has improved, I've gotten back into #OCDStory. This year, I tried writing a new novel, #SnowQueenStory, but I recently realized that I'm not in the right place in my life for that story yet. So when I'm not cleaning up #OCDStory based off of my beta readers' critiques, I plan on doing the extensive edits on #ProphecyStory that have been building up in my head over the last few years. I still think #OCDStory might be The One, but unfortunately, I work a lot more slowly now, and I need time to get it right.
All the other books I've written have been trunked--and of course, there were many ideas throughout the years that I trunked before I even finished a draft! I do plan on resurrecting some of my books in order to write new and improved versions: a more logical version of #SplitStory, another Dreamland story of some kind, a book that combines #PsychicStory, #ChosenFourStory, and #PsychicDystopiaStory into a beautiful psychic collage. I also have a few new ideas that I hope to explore in the future. But for now, it looks like I'm in editing land, and since I'm working as a freelance editor anyway, I guess that's what fits. I can only hope that the work won't always be as hard and slow as it is now, that some of the excitement and passion from my childhood will return--but with my illnesses, I can't guarantee it. Nevertheless, I intend to persist, as I have across the last eighteen years, in trying to reach my goals as a writer.
Someday I'll be represented by a literary agent. Someday I'll have a publishing deal. Someday I'll be able to make this into a real career, and I look forward to continuing this history of my writing life then. 😉
Thanks for reading! Tell me your thoughts, and I'll be back next week with my top to-reads for fall 2019.
Images via lydiaxliu on Flickr, Nick Youngson on thebluediamondgallery.com, needpix.com, 3282700 on Pixabay, maxpixel.com, and casja_lilliehook on Flickr.
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