This post was written between January 8 – 25, 2023, but could not be posted due to industry secrecy. Read on to see how I processed *finally* selling my first novel.
January 8, 2023: I’m writing this now even though I can’t post it yet because publishing is like my hair (full of secrets). But recent events (Editors! Want! My book!!!) have caused me to recognize how much of my life has been spent in a state of yearning. Or is it dreaming? A bit of both, I suppose.
Since I was in middle school, I’ve been writing novels with the goal of someday being published. Towards the end of high school I had a seven book epic sci-fi fantasy planned and partially written, and by then I was full-fledged fantasizing about what, to me, seemed like an almost inevitable future: me being a successful published author, making a living telling stories. I wanted it so badly, believed in it so much, that when it didn’t come right away, or soon, or any time in the seventeen years I was writing and querying agents as an adult, I started to doubt it would happen. I started to doubt myself. I started to think all kinds of grim, bleak thoughts (truly paranoid in many ways). Some of it was a result of a dream unfulfilled, some of it was a result of other traumas. Still. It was rough for many years. And when I got sick somewhere in the middle and lost my vital energy and my ability to even think clearly, I kind of assumed all hope was lost.
But then I got better—not all the way, but enough to live a full life. And I wrote more. And I kept writing, even when it was difficult, even when I was drowning in doubt, and fear, and writer’s block. And then I finished the novel I’d started in a frenzy of feminist rage in 2015, and set aside (mostly) in 2016 because I knew I wasn’t quite the author I needed to be to write it (yet), and then picked up again during my last semester of grad school, using it for my creative thesis.
And then I finally, finally, got an agent.
Suddenly, the dream was alive again—but tempered. Instead of my youthful fantasy of selling my book the same week it goes on sub (after going to auction), I dreamed I’d get a lovely small press who might not be able to pay a large advance, but would give the book a good marketing push and a beautiful cover and interior design. I would be content just to have this book be in the world. I didn’t (and don’t) need a lot of fuss.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been alternately blissfully dreaming and painfully yearning for as long as I can remember. I have had one dream in life, and one dream only: to be a published, successful author. (And by “successful” I mean decent critical reviews, enough of a loyal fan base that publishers keep publishing my work, and maybe a few notes from readers that my work positively affected them.)
When editors began to show interest in my novel immediately after the holiday break, I was struck with this huge identity crisis: I honestly do not know who I am if I am not yearning to be published.
Jan 11, 2023 – Update: I figured out who I am if I am not yearning to be published. Astonishingly, (profoundly? humbling-ly? annoyingly?) I am still the same exact person I have always been. I should probably spend some more time with the other parts of myself that haven’t been all tied up with yearning.
The REAL question is, I suppose, who can I be if I’m not yearning to be published? Where will I no longer be stymied by desperate longing? Where will I flourish? Where will all that powerful energy of desire flow into next? What else is there to want so badly?
Maybe I will never long for something like that ever again. Maybe this is my one dream, my one goal. I’m stepping into it now. There is only forward. Maybe it will be everything I wanted and expected it to be. Maybe it will be a disappointment. But I’m on that path now. I’m there. I’m living my dream.
January 14, 2023 – Update:
We have FIVE EDITORS in the running now. This is already more than I would have dared to dream.
January 23, 2023 – Update:
Auction day! AUCTION DAY!
MY BOOK is “GOING TO AUCTION!”
January 25, 2023 – Update:
Mercury is direct. All the planets are direct, in fact. Full steam ahead today, this incredible day I only thought possible as an untested youth. I can still recall that passionate, try-hard baby witch and writer: first sitting in her wicker throne with an inside-out embellished Burger King crown on her head, clacking away on a chunky keyboard in her lap, attached to the chunky PC she bought from a stranger from the local (print) newspaper classifieds (still running Windows ’95 in 1998); then later, post high-school, rolling around her first apartment in a thrifted computer chair on wobbly casters, wearing sunglasses indoors and smoking too many cigarettes (don’t smoke kids), journaling to the Universe detailed instruction for how our life should unfold.
Damn, girl. You did it.
Despite the years of self-inflicted torment, the years of yearning, the years of pretending I could give it up, if I had to; despite a broken heart several times over, a dysfunctional body, an uncooperative, divergent mind. Despite all odds and obstacles.
We did it. That wannabe eccentric teenage girl and I. And the little girl plagiarizing The Last Unicorn as she retold it in red crayon with tiny changes. And the little girl writing intentionally erudite descriptions of Hell at age 10. And the little girl who finished writing her first novel at age 12. And the little girl who tried so hard not to listen when someone asked her, “why bother? It’s not like you’ll ever get published.” And the teenage girl who kept writing angsty poems even when she couldn’t bear to write her “useless” fiction. And the young woman who picked up her novels again when someone gave her all the love and support she could have hoped for at such a tender age. And the young woman who first queried agents at age 21 with a beyond melodramatic WWII twisted family drama NaNoWriMo novel (that got three full manuscript requests, might I add!). And the young woman who kept writing her own truths even when she could have had an agent in her 20’s if she’d been capable of tossing out her beloved stories and starting over with something calculated and commercial*. And the young woman who kept centering writing, kept churning out stories and novels and worlds and words no matter how painful life seemed, and no matter how many times it felt like she could not “keep doing this to myself.” And the 30-something woman who invested in herself and finally went to school to learn what she couldn’t teach herself about storytelling. And the other 30-something woman who put herself in real, consistent therapy, partly so she could handle her mental health, but mostly so she could write again without the toxic burden of a lifetime of self-criticism and learned bad thought patterns weighing down her every keystroke.
We did it, girls.
I did it.
I sold my first novel. (At auction!!!!!!)
I’m going to be a published author.
*There’s nothing wrong with writing commercial stories! I just couldn’t do that to a story I loved.