Take it away, Meredith!
Chances are if you’re reading this you are deep in the query trenches and looking for the light at the end—that’s what I used to do. So, let me start with this: each author has a different path to success. Some are short, some wind. You’ll have your own route, but please keep going even if the road seems endless because the work is so worth the reward.
I can’t think of a time where I didn’t write. I drafted romance novellas in CCD. I scribbled erotica during AP Bio. I wrote for catharsis, not craft. It was just something I loved.
Time rolled on, marriage, babies, and career later, I was still writing. I took Honorable Mention in a SFF short story contest and it gave me that idea that maybe I could really DO this.
Beginning in 2015, around when my step-father became sick, I turned the short story into a YA post-apocalyptic, underwater dystopian. Yep, it was an unabashed Hunger Games knockoff. But a small press saw a glimmer of talent and gave me an R&R in March 2015. I also received my first full manuscript request from an agent. I freaked out. Nothing came of either, but I met superstar editor Kate Angelella.
Book Two was better. I took lessons learned and incorporated them into a fairytale turned Gone Girl. This one had interest in June 2015’s #Pitmad, another R&R, and two full manuscript requests. It’s a great concept, but despite Kate’s best efforts I didn’t have much craft or voice.
Book Three was a formerly terrible manuscript I revised in a month to be a not-so-lousy thriller/mystery/romance/women’s fiction… ok, it’s still bad, but it was enough to get five full manuscript requests and interest in September 2015’s #Pitmad again.
I said Book Four would be my last. After four books, maybe I needed to admit I just didn’t have what it took. I wrote a modern, diverse Jane Eyre and partnered with a CP who brought me up to speed on craft with a vengeance. Cue A LOT of revising. It worked, though. I received ten full manuscript requests and came very close to representation. But still no voice, so no dice.
The Turning Point:
At the beginning of 2016 I wasn’t going to write anymore. I’d failed and my step-father, really the only father I’ve known, had died from leukemia right at the New Year. After that was the fall out—the cremation, wrapping up his life and estate, the devastation from my mom. All of these pushed me to write, once again for catharsis, and out of that came the idea for Book Five: SCATTERED.
And then Beth Phelan organized a thing called #DVPit—a Twitter day for marginalized voices. I rushed to write a road trip novel and my wonderfully understanding CP, Gloria, agreed to help me get it into shape in the seven-ish weeks we had. (I’m still sorry about the draft she had to read.) We’d met during Book Three’s #Pitmad. Side note: if you’re not making friends, CPs, and connections in these Twitter/Online contests, you’re doing it wrong.
#DVPit yielded 20 favorites and 4 editor retweets. All of a sudden my quirky, voicey romance/women’s fiction that was funny and sad about coping with death was out into the world. I had the immediate thoughts of: What hell did I just do? No one is going to get this.
But then the requests poured in the week following #DVPit. One was from Lauren Abramo. I checked out her Manuscript Wishlist and I thought it was a match. So I sent. I sent nine fulls out in a week. And then… crickets. Weeks of maddening crickets mingled with query rejections and one other full request. And the self-doubt, query trench PTSD came out: What if they all say no again? How are you going to handle that? What if you’re just not good enough? You’re definitely not talented. You’re a total hack.
And then Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert came into my life. Essentially, it boiled down to: do you love to write? Yes. Did you write when no one said good job/no one paid you? Yes. Well then, keep writing and any success is a bonus.
So I settled in and wrote again. Then the first success came. My erotic romance short Ink & Ocean was selected for the kINKED Anthology. Finally, validation! Of course it was something I couldn’t tell my mom about (BDSM), but I had tangible success.
Then THE email came June 3. Lauren Abramo from Dystel & Goderich wanted to talk! To me! I was so impressed with her vision as I ran through San Fran airport (FYI: not an ideal place for the most important call of your writer life). I believe I said something along the lines of “uh, what do we do now?” Yes, that’s just the kind of erudite fireworks she’d hoped to sign. Somehow she didn’t reneg and I set the deadline at a week. I had wonderful responses from the agents who had my work and other offers, but in the end I chose Lauren and I’m so proud and ecstatic to be part of Team Abramo at DGLM.
TL; DR: If writing is what you love to do, do it. Keep going with the next book—screw the doubt. Life is short and we’re lucky to have a chance to do what we love.
My first thank you is to my husband for putting up with my bathrobe clad, coffee mug holding, writer self. His faith in me never wavered even when mine did. Shout out to my amazing CPs from whom I learned so much and continue to: Anne Lipton, Gloria Chao, Angela Parker, Caitlin LaRue, Erin Hahn, and Karen McManus. And to my #DVPit crew. Special thank you to Kate Angelella for being a great editor and cheerleader. And a big hug to Beth Phelan for organizing and Jennifer Johnson-Blalock for always listening.
Congratulations, Meredith! I couldn’t be happier for you!
Meredith is graciously offering a critique in celebration. Grand prize winner will receive a first 5 pages critique, and 2 runner-ups will receive Twitter pitch critiques. As another added bonus, 2 more runner-ups will receive Twitter pitch critiques from me! Enter the Rafflecopter below!
Meredith Ireland is a Korean-American attorney and writer, born in Seoul. She is a Rollins College and University of Miami School of Law alumna. Meredith met her husband while bartending in Saratoga Springs, New York. She graduated Order of the Coif and with magna cum laude honors before practicing law in Albany. She resides in Saratoga with her husband and two children and a goldfish named Emo who has lived freakishly long.