I was writing the world’s COOLEST book. It was about a spy kid. And I was convinced it was the Next Best Thing. I had done some research about getting published. I knew that attending a writer’s conference would be the best way to meet editors and agents. So I went to a little day-and-a-half conference in Anaheim, California. One of the guest speakers was a highly respected literary agent. He gave us all the opportunity to pitch to him during the break. My turn came and I said something like this:
“Okay, so my story is about Spencer, who’s a kid who plays basketball. He’s really tall, and he likes eating peanut butter out of the jar—wait. Well, anyways, he gets recruited to be a spy, because there is this secret spy organization that sends kids out on missions, but people think they’re going on mission trips, well, missionaries are my heroes, so I wanted to incorporate that somehow. Anyway, so Spencer doesn’t want to join these guys because he thinks they’re crazy, but his grandma makes him. So he goes to Moscow. And when he’s there he stumbles onto this secret case with this evil lady who’s trying to break into the field office. And Spencer keeps getting in trouble…
I think I may have kept going. On and on and on and on… It’s painful to recall.
And the agent’s eyes had started to glaze over. He was probably thinking, “Will she ever stop talking?” And I did stop eventually. And the agent said something like this: “Yeah, well… Kids, they don’t really like reading about missionaries. It’s boring. And young adult books don’t really sell. I don’t represent young adult authors for that reason. The market is too small.” (That was then, by the way. The market is wide open now! Woot!)
So I walked away. Completely devastated!
After the conference that night I went up to my room and cried (because I’m a girl). But when I was done, I said to myself, “Okay. I know teens like to read my book, because they have. So I must not have explained it very well.” So I thought, maybe if I had bothered to COMPLETE the book, I would be able to explain it better. The book was only about 70% done.
Then it hit me. I hadn’t been respecting my dream!
Say you have appendicitis. And you need an operation, stat! But there are no doctors around. But I’m here. And I have a scalpel because I took art in high school. And I think I could do the job. It might not be pretty, but you might live. Would you let me operate on you?
I don’t think so, right?
How many years do people go to school before they can be a doctor? A lot of years!
This was what I was thinking up in that hotel room. I had spent, oh, maybe three-four months on my Next Best Thing. And it was only about 70% done. And I wanted to sell it for millions of dollars without bothering to put in the time to learn the craft of writing or how the publishing industry works or any of that. I just wanted my daydream to come true. But I realized that this was going to be a lot harder than I thought. And I could quit. Or I could keep at it.
I don’t give up easily.
So I kept at it. I did everything that agent said to do. I finished my novel. I found a critique group. I let them read my novel. I took their advice and rewrote my novel. I read books on the craft of writing and bought reference books to help me learn writing rules (click here to see my recommended list). I read other fiction books in my genre so that I would know what was selling already. I wrote another book. And another book. I went to more writer’s conferences.
It took me four years before I was offered a book contract. And it wasn’t for my Next Best Thing spy novel. It was for the book that became By Darkness Hid. The SIXTH novel I wrote.
So, know that writing is a tough industry. It’s a lot of work! But it’s SO MUCH FUN! And if you respect your dream enough to put in the time to learn and train yourself, you’ll be ready to be published.
So what are you waiting for? Get writing!