Saturday, August 11, 2012

The True Meaning of "Success"

The first inkling of an idea for my YA novel came to me nearly three years ago. Although, the title was all I had, those three, little words wouldn't leave me alone and, before long, a vague idea for a story began to blossom.

At the time, I was in conversation with a wonderful agent. She was entertained by my tweets, and loved two different novels of mine. She just didn't think either book was "the one." I told her I had another idea that was banging around in my brain, though it wasn't fully fleshed out. She asked about it, and I explained it as best I could. She loved the premise, and told me to let her know the minute I had the first draft complete.

The rest, as they say, is history. Or, is it?

I did sign with her, but things didn't work out. (She's awesome and I have nothing but good things to say about her.) Afterwards, I received an offer to publish my YA novel with a well known vanity press, but decided that wasn't the way to go. 

In the meantime, I wrote a women's fiction novel and sent it to Portland for a full edit by the brilliant editor and former agent, Gretchen Stelter. I planned to dig into it as soon as I got her notes back, but instead, my YA novel had, once again, taken hold of my brain. 

After seeing the enthusiasm of some of my talented writer friends who have recently self-published, I thought perhaps that was the way to go for my YA project. I'd received suggestions for a grueling, but brilliant revision from an agent I genuinely admire, so I knew before I self-published, I had more work to do. Nearing the end of the long yet inspiring revision, I decided to email the agent who'd made the suggestions in the first place to see if she'd want to take another look. 

"Of course, I would!" she said.

It occurred to me, then and there, that I should try the traditional route once more, and that's where I am right now; sending my YA novel back out into the world in much, much better shape.

One of the greatest challenges we writers face is deciding when our novel is "done" and ready to query. As any writer worth their weight knows, the novel is not done when you write, "The End." Far from it. In fact, that's when the real work begins. The problem is, we often think our novels are query-ready long before they are. 

Fortunately, if you're focused, passionate, and determined and don't give up on yourself or your work, your writing will improve. And, whether you choose the traditional publishing route or self-publishing (or both), working hard and honing your skills will indeed make you a better writer. 

And being a better writer, in my book, is the true meaning of success.

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