I know how much hearing other writers’ stories meant to me when I was working towards publication, so I wanted to share mine! Even though my story isn’t really over yet, I’m going to keep this focused on reaching that one big publication goal. I’m sure I’ll share much more about what happened next and what I’m working on now in future posts. If you’d like to know more about why I created A Well Told Story, you can find that on my About page.
Here’s my story:
I’ve been a storyteller for pretty much my entire life. As a kid, I would act out scenes with my Barbies and dictate plays to my grandmother. When I was in second grade, my school told my mom she had to buy me a new notebook because I had written so much that I’d maxed out the school’s allotted resources.
My first exposure to creative writing (that I can remember) was in third grade. I wrote a sixteen-page story about aliens attacking my school. Then I wrote a whole series of related stories. I didn’t know if my stories were any good, but I honestly didn’t care. All I cared about was how good it felt to write and how much fun I was having. Looking back, I can see how crucial it was that my school had me and my peers writing early and never emphasized “good” or “correct” writing at that age. All they cared about was the fact that we were writing.
As I moved through school, I always wrote more than I needed to. In eighth grade, we were assigned a four-page suspense story. I wrote a thirty-page play. In ninth grade, we had to write stories with our vocab words every other week. They could be as short as a page. Mine were always at least twenty. I wasn’t trying to be an overachiever. I just couldn’t stop writing.
It was towards the end of my ninth grade year that I decided I was going to write a book and I was going to get it published. Not only that, I was going to write an entire series. I have always been a series girl. I spent most of middle school reading Harry Potter on a loop and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed my world. Now I was going to write my own fantasy.
I had never planned my stories too much before, but I had also never written a book before. Planning seemed like a good idea. After all, that’s how J.K. Rowling had worked. I got a whiteboard for my room and started planning my series. I planned for a year. By spring of my sophomore year, it was starting to come together. I had characters. I had a plot. I was close to being ready to write. I just had one more big plot arc to figure out. It was the plot that would run through all of the books in the series. I spent the first night of spring break in my room brainstorming on my whiteboard.
I was at it for hours. I completely lost track of time, and by the time I was finished it was well after midnight. I remember looking at the board when I was finished and knowing this was it. This was my thing. This was my new way of life. It was exhilarating in a way that was addictive.
That feeling is why I write. If you found this blog, you know probably know what I’m talking about. That’s the feeling I’m always chasing.
I started writing my book my junior year. I scheduled an independent study at school to make sure I had the time. Every day, for an hour and a half, I wrote. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it didn’t matter. I had that feeling. I was happy. I finished the book that summer, just before my senior year started. Then I got another independent study to type and edit the book (yeah, I wrote the whole thing by hand). By the end of my senior year, I had the book typed, edited, and in the best shape I could get it in. I’d researched “how to get published”, typed up a query letter to agents, and spent the summer sending them out (via USPS) to the agents I thought might like it.
Of course, I didn’t get an agent. That book had so many problems!! Like I said, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Now I was in college and seriously considering taking a writing class. But I was hesitant. I LOVED writing. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be graded in something I loved. I didn’t want the grade to ruin writing for me. But I gave it a shot anyway, and it was one of my best and most important decisions.
I found out that learning the tools to tell my stories better and more effectively made writing even more electric. I got so much out of those classes that I decided I needed to take more. So after I graduated, I went on to get my MFA.
Between my time in college and grad school, I wrote three new books, workshopped and revised one of them until it shined, and went on to query that book unsuccessfully. Despite the lack of an agent or book deal, I was never discouraged. Because I had that feeling the entire time. I knew when I graduated I would always be writing–published or not. That feeling was a part of my life now. I needed it to be happy. I got a job as a college writing tutor, which turned out to be perfect for me. I love teaching and talking about writing but I hate the idea of grading. This job also meant that I didn’t take work home with me, so all my free time could be for my own work.
The summer after I graduated from my MFA program, I started what would become my first published book. It took me about a year to write, nine months to get an agent, and four months to get a publisher–which happened about ten and a half years after I first decided I wanted to be published. Did it take longer than I wanted it to? Of course. But I can honestly say I enjoyed the entire process. Because for me, it was about the writing. It was about working to tell a story well. That’s something I’ll always have.