First Steps

By

After years of writing and rejection, I found myself on Wattpad, publishing a book for free. I’d been advised against it by others in the industry—but figured I had nothing to lose. Within a year, I’d gained over 18 million reads, which caught the attention of media, which led to interest from foreign rights agents, publishers and others in the industry, which parlayed into a 3-book deal with Simon & Schuster.

Books, Columns, Homepage Sub  •  Mar 08, 2012

My life has changed so drastically over the past month that I barely recognize it anymore. Mind you, it’s all in a good way—an incredible, unbelievable way, actually—but still, sometimes I can barely believe it’s my life!

Let me backtrack a bit. I’ve been writing books since I was 15-years-old and woke up in the middle of the night with an outline for what would become my first novel called The Guardian. Since then, I’ve written six other books, most of which have been read and rejected by agents, publishers and industry people universally. The reason? “It’s a great story, but it’s not for us,” or “You’re a skilled writer, but we already have something similar.” I’ve also had my fair share of, “I know I’m going to kick myself for saying no, but…”

So, after years of writing and rejection, I found myself on the writing community, Wattpad, publishing a book for free. I was hesitant to do this at first, because I’d been advised against it by others in the industry—but figured I had nothing to lose.

And it was the best decision I ever made. Within a year, I’d gained over 18 million reads of my novel, Life’s a Witch, which caught the attention of media (Publisher’s Weekly) who were kind enough to talk about me. This led to interest from foreign rights agents, publishers and others in the industry, and eventually more media (Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal), which parlayed into a 3-book deal with Simon & Schuster, bought in an auction.

Phew!

So now, I’m officially a full-time writer and author of three upcoming books to be put out by publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster…can you see why I say my life is crazy?

IndieReader was nice enough to ask me to keep a sort of diary of my transition from self-publishing (after so many of my fans requested a paperback copy of LAW, I decided to publish it myself in December 2011, using Amazon’s service, CreateSpace) to traditional publishing.

It’s only been a month or so since we closed the deal with Simon & Schuster, and so I’m smack in the middle of writing my first book, a prequel/spin-off of LAW, which will be published in three installments online (beginning in September) before coming out in paperback in December! There are so many differences in writing this time around and I thought I’d share a few with you:

No more setting your own deadlines. I’m no stranger to deadlines. In fact, in my life before LAW (MLBLAW), I was an editor at a magazine for 10 years. I set and adhered to deadlines there, and my writing life was no different. Without anyone else pushing me to write, I set my own schedule which included writing every night (after I got home, ate dinner, worked out and took a shower) from about 11PM to midnight or later. I forced myself to stick to the self-imposed schedule to ensure that I actually ended up with a book in the end. Remember, the only thing that separates writers from aspiring writers is the writing part.

However, once I signed the deal with Simon & Schuster, there were more people in the mix, which meant I no longer decided when things would get done. I was raring to get writing right away, since I knew that the first deadline was coming up quick. However, before I could get started, I had to turn in an outline for the book to make sure there weren’t any story holes from the get-go. This took some time to get back and then there were discussions and notes before I could actually get started.

When I finally got the green light, it ended up being that I only had about seven weeks to write the first book! Yikes!

The good thing though, is that it’s still up to me to set my daily writing goals. And meeting deadlines is something that I do pretty well. Right now, I’ve been writing for less than two weeks and already have 100 pages written! So, even though deadlines may be given by someone else, it’s still up to you to meet them!

Writing is more collaborative. Again, I had experience with this through working at a magazine. In that instance, you’re writing with someone else’s voice in mind and you get used to people editing and changing what you write. However, my fiction writing had always been my own—I never really took any feedback from anyone else when writing my books.

Now, working with a publishing company and an editor, it’s become a much more collaborative process. I think the idea of having an outside party come in with their opinions and ideas probably scares a lot of writers. In their minds, their manuscript is their creation, their baby—something that shouldn’t be messed with. And I’ve heard a lot of stories where books have been ripped apart to the point where the author can’t even recognize it as their own anymore. So, I was sort of expecting things to get a little hairy.

But so far, my experiences have been nothing like those described above. I think if you’re lucky, hopefully you’ll find an editor that feels exactly the same way you do about your book. When I first talked to my editor, Alexandra Cooper, I could tell she was a fan. She had completely fallen in love with Hadley and her crew of magical misfits. She rooted for her and Asher, and was devastated when Hadley’s mom was killed. She was surprised to find out who the traitor was and felt betrayed on behalf of The Cleri after the fact. In other words: I could tell how excited she was about the world I’d created.

She did have some suggestions though, ways that the story could be made even stronger. She wasn’t interested in deleting whole sections or re-writing the book, she just wanted to add and clarify a few things—all suggestions that I actually agree with her on.

When I sent her my outline for What the Spell? (The prequel/spin-off we’re doing for the series) she also had notes. Some were simple changes (a name here and there) that weren’t big at all. Others were bigger, like plot changes. When I first saw the notes, I have to be honest—the writer in me started to think, “Danger! Danger!” and I pictured a tug-of-war for the next three years.

What I got was an amazing conversation with Alexandra, where I was able to better explain my reasoning behind certain points and she was able to explain her notes. And you know what? Between the two of us, we were able to create a pretty solid storyline. The other thing I really enjoyed about this process? Alexandra asks me a lot of questions that force me to really take a deeper look at my characters and the world I’m creating. I know the book is going to be better because of this process.

Are there going to be changes I have to make down the road? Of course. Is it going to be for the betterment of the final product? I really think so. How can it not be when I’m working with someone who loves these characters as much as I do?

So, that’s where I’m at today—knee-deep in writing and brimming with excitement over what’s to come. I can’t wait to share this journey with you and hope to have much more to tell you in my next post!

  • http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0072LSPAM Angie McCullagh

    What an inspiring story! Thank you for taking the time to write this. If I had to write a book in 7 weeks I think I’d seriously choke.

  • Keri English

    Inspiring indeed! This is very encouraging to those of us who are finally allowed to spend more time writing after working insane schedules for years. Thanks for sharing your story & best of luck with the deadlines :)

  • http://Wattpad Markeeta

    I want this book now

  • http://Wattpad Markeeta

    Love this book

  • http://srjohannes.com srjohannes

    great story :) congrads