The topic of this post was decided, as all weighty decisions are made, in a Twitter poll. And to be honest, the entire reason I made the Twitter poll in the first place was because I wasn’t sure how to write this post, and was hoping you would all just want me to link my playlist (which I am still absolutely going to do).
The actual story is really simple: I was persistent, and I was lucky. I am also longwinded, so proceed at your peril.
WOLF isn’t the first book I’ve written, but it is the first I’ve sincerely queried. Technically, it’s the second book I’ve completed, but somewhere deep in my parents’ storage shed there is a dinosaur of a desktop filled with half-written novels, fanfiction, and fragments of stories that will never see the light of day.
I’ve always been writing, and it’s always been for the same reason: to tell the story I want to read.
I kind of lied, earlier. WOLF is actually my third completed novel, if you count the cozy mystery set in a horse barn I scrawled in a composition notebook when I was ten. That’s the first thing I ever remember writing, and I distinctly remember why: I’d finished all the Saddle Club mysteries available at the library, and desperately wanted more.
I didn’t set out to write WOLF with the goal of publication. I’d just had our first child, and was existing in a fog of sleep deprivation and mild PPD/PPA. The idea for WOLF had been rattling around in my head for a while, but between working full time and preparing for the imminent arrival of an infant, I hadn’t had the time to commit to trying to write it. I had a few half-baked ideas in my Notes app, and that was it.
Then baby came, everything changed, and suddenly I found myself with tons of time, intense brain fog, and a small, guilty desire to escape.
So I escaped into WOLF.
I wrote the log line before I wrote anything else—The First Daughter is for the throne, the Second Daughter is for the Wolf. I don’t remember doing it, so it must have been during a middle-of-the-night wakeup, with the light of my screen turned all the way down so as not to disturb the tenuous sleep I’d coaxed the kid into. I do remember reading it on my phone the next day, and getting that feeling of oh, so we’re doing this.
My husband read the log line over my shoulder. His eyes widened. “Whoa.”
Yeah, we’re definitely doing this.
I wrote the first draft in three months, and I wrote it entirely for me. It was full of every trope I’d ever devoured in a Dramione fanfiction, it had gratuitous descriptions of forests and decrepit castles, characters were kissing 15k words in because delayed gratification? Who needs it!
It was, to put it kindly, a hot mess. But there was something there, something that hadn’t been there in the other things I’d written. And I started googling how one would go about publication.
Everything I read beseeched me to join Twitter. I did, somewhat reluctantly. The world opened up, and I followed everyone who mentioned anything bookish, soaking up as much information as I could, trying and failing not to get overwhelmed.
Three days after I’d joined, I saw a tweet about a contest called Pitch Madness. Replete with information and armed with a fresh-off-the-press first draft that wasn’t fit for human eyes, I entered.
Reader, I did NOT get in.
Erin is, to put it simply, one of my best friends and a delightful person to know. We initially connected because both of our books were technically retellings—mine, Red Riding Hood, hers, Peter Pan. Neither of us made it into Pitch Madness, but we started DMing each other, and continue to DM every day. She was my first critique partner, and the first person to read WOLF. I am thankful and amazed every day that she did not run screeching from it.
Erin told me, in kinder terms, what I already knew. There was something here, but it was buried in layers of mess. I had zero experience with actually revising something, but with her careful notes, I laboriously stitched together a second draft, closing some plot holes while opening others, trimming description and adding more. Everyone still kissed way too early, though.
Erin and I both planned to enter the inaugural #RevPit, a contest where freelance editors choose a book to work with for free for two months and showcase on their website. I stuck my too-long, slightly-less-sucky book in the running without high hopes. But I got in.
#RevPit taught me how to truly revise. I worked with Stephanie Eding, who was endlessly kind and patient and could see the potential in my messy manuscript, and we tore the thing to shreds and put it back together stronger. I think I ended up rewriting the entire book.
I was very confident in that draft, and sent out my first batch of queries. I got a couple full requests. Then I got a bunch of rejections.
#RevPit ended in the spring, and I queried halfheartedly through the summer. I was a slow querier, sending out batches of five or so at a time, sending more when I received rejections. I kept a list of agencies on my phone and would look at it every time my inbox welcomed a new “Dear Author,” comforting myself with the long list of people who had yet to look at my book.
I was well and truly a Twitter denizen now, and the rumble on the TL was that Pitch Wars was coming. I didn’t think much of it—I’d already won one contest, and honestly felt a little selfish entering another. I didn’t participate on the hashtag, and encouraged my other RevPit-winner friends to go for it, all while thinking I would sit this one out.
The day the submission window opened, I decided to go for it. I hadn’t researched mentors, hadn’t “pimped my bio,” but I had a story I believed in and decided that was enough. I searched through mentors, putting my list together. The mentor I wanted most, partly because she used Kylo Ren gifs on her post, was Monica Hoffman.
And she picked me.
I bounced around my living room the day the list came out, and called my husband to tell him (he didn’t really understand but was still very excited, which is pretty much how anyone not in publishing responds to publishing news, bless him). I’m planning to write another post all about my incredible Pitch Wars experience, so for now I’ll just say that Monica taught me so much about writing and revising and doing background work to help your characters, and she was absolutely wonderful to work with.
The agent round came and went. I got a decent number of requests, and was confident an offer would come out of them. I was wrong.
Once again into the query fray. I sent out a few small batches, and had a pretty good request rate. But they all slowly turned into rejections. I started to think that maybe WOLF wasn’t going to be it after all.
Thankfully, I had friends who loved WOLF as much as I did. They told me not to give up on it. So, I decided to do a big send-off and query every remaining agent on my list. If nothing came of it, that was fine. But I couldn’t shelve the thing without giving it the best shot I could.
One of the agents I queried, after being told by a friend she was amazing, was Whitney Ross. She was new to agenting, at a dream agency, and had an impressive resume of editing experience from my dream publishing houses. It seemed too good to be true, and I hit send on the query without a lot of hope.
But she wanted to read the full. And she read it in five days. And I got the email as I was drinking coffee one morning, with my toddler crawling all over me, that she wanted to talk on the phone.
I said a word that no one should say in front of an almost-two-year-old and waved my phone in my husband’s face, blathering about a call, someone wanted to talk to me on the phone, an agenting someone liked my book!
I ended up with three offers for WOLF. Every single person I talked to on the phone was absolutely lovely, but in the end I chose Whitney, because we’d clicked so perfectly and I loved her ideas, both for WOLF and for future projects. I could not be happier with my decision, and I am so excited to dive into revisions and make this book the best it can be.
Hooray, you made it to the end of this post! It’s way too long and I’m sorry! As promised, I’m ending with links. But before playlists, here are some awesome organizations you should check out and maybe donate to if you have some extra cash:
And here is the WOLF playlist. It’s VERY emo, just a warning.