I never tire of hearing a good "How I Got Published" story. Before I sold my book, I took comfort in the often unpredictable ups-and-downs of other writers. Many of them struggle for years, searching for their perfect age-group or genre or writing style. And when they find it, it often takes years to find the perfect story within that bracket. And when they find that story, they then need to write that story and find an editor who can convince a publisher to buy it...which can add even more years to an author's personal journey.
This post is not about one of those journeys.
But first, I need you to think back. If you're a writer, think back a year-and-a-half. What were you working on back then? Eighteen months ago, I’d just finished editing Thirteen Reasons Why for Razorbill. I was still on Cloud 9, feeling that my thirteen years of slowly learning the craft had finally paid off.
What was my friend and fellow-blogger Suzanne Young doing a year-and-a-half ago? She had just decided to become a writer, so began working on her very first novel. (Please, dear reader, now would be a good time to find a chair...and sit in it.) In the ensuing eighteen months, Suzanne wrote a total of nine young adult manuscripts. That's right…nine YA manuscripts...eighteen months! (Warning: Do not attempt the math because the answer will make your brain go kablooey.) Were all of those manuscripts brilliant? Probably not...at least, it makes me feel better to assume they weren't. But a mere nine months after beginning her writing journey, she signed with a literary agent.
Several months went by, and I received a very nice e-mail from Suzanne about Thirteen Reasons Why. We did a little shop-talk and it became clear that she was not in the best author/agent relationship. So she parted ways with her agent and did some submitting on her own, getting extremely positive feedback from editors. And then, after stumbling across her blog, another literary agent contacted her. This new agent was extremely excited about Suzanne and was soon submitting her novel Smitten Kittens.
Within a matter of weeks, three publishing houses were fighting over Suzanne. This past Monday, she signed a two-book deal with Razorbill.
What I'm saying is, Suzanne's learning curve looks more like a ninety-degree-angle!
So how did she do it? I have many theories, but they mainly come down to this: It's internal. She just gets it! When it comes to characters, emotional tension, how to time a joke, and pitch-perfect dialogue, she knows how to get the idea out of her head and onto her computer in one clean sweep. Her writing process is a lot like an improv comedian. What comes out simply works.
But it can be frustrating, too. Several times, she would send me an opening chapter to a new book and ask me if it was any good. I would start to read it, laughing out loud, and another e-mail would pop up asking me to stop reading because she'd just rewritten that chapter. Not edited it. Rewritten it! New actions. New dialogue. New jokes. So I would start reading the new version, and another e-mail would pop up with the subject line Stop Reading!
And in the time it took me to write and edit this post, Suzanne probably wrote three chapters in her second book for Razorbill...and rewrote each chapter three or four times.
Congratulations, Suzanne! Eve, Robin, and I are doing the Book Deal Dance in solidarity with ya!!!
To read more about Suzanne, here are some more links. (Notice how many blogs she contributes to. She just can't stop those fingers from typing!)
Yapping About YA
2010: A Book Odyssey