I never did hear back again from that author I contacted about how quickly she made it from first scribble to publication. I guess she just didn’t want to fool with us, which is fine . . . it’s her privilege to talk with whomever she chooses.
But here, on someone else’s journal, is a clear and open admission from a NYT best-selling author who says it was only two and a half years from first scribble to publication.
Author Alyson Noel says in an interview: “[A]ll in all[,] it took around 2.5 years from seriously sitting down to write to the first sell.” (Journal entry posted Feb. 17, 2009)
Alyson Noel says in the interview I cite: “The moment I finished reading Judy Blume’s, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, in the sixth grade[,] I knew I wanted to be a writer too. But aside from really bad poetry penned in junior high, short stories written in high school, and the odd writing class taken as an adult, I mostly just talked about writing rather than actual doing it. It wasn’t until the events of 9/11, when I was working as a flight attendant in NYC and figured a career change might be in order[,] that I finally got serious and enrolled in some online writing courses where I worked on expanding a short story I’d written a long time ago into a novel. It was through that class that a fellow student led me to my then- agent, and after revising the book one more time, he sold my debut novel, FAKING 19, in a two-book deal to St. Martin’s Press. So all in all it took around 2.5 years from seriously sitting down to write to the first sell. […] The day after EVERMORE was released […] my publisher informed me it had gone into another printing and had a shot at the New York Times Bestseller list.”
Note: she says she WANTED to write, but never sat down seriously until the class. This does not constitute “writing for years, just like you.”
People often attack me when I say that I believe that if a writer has been writing seriously for more than three or four years without a sale, it’s hopeless and will never happen for that writer. I have found much evidence for this online and elsewhere, in interviews wherein authors say publicly that they just sat down to write one day and sent this thing off without knowing a thing about the market and *poof*, the book is a worldwide best-seller. Of course we get the same story out of Stephenie Meyer, who says she didn’t even write it with publication in mind. [musing] Apparently my ambition to publish is the greater sin, as that’s what is always getting me into trouble.
Some of my correspondents insist that these writers who claim only to have written for a year or so are dissembling or lying outright, but that’s not what the writers SAY. How is it that they have a grasp of narrative, dialogue, creating distinct characters, and all of it without ever having practiced, my friends ask . . . it MUST be that these writers have paid their dues. But this is not what is being said out there. Why should they feel they have to fudge the truth? I don’t believe they ARE lying. I think they really ARE new to the craft, and that there must be value in it. They are tuned in to the current vibe, when I don’t even receive that channel. I think that I am SOL, along with many others who have been beating their heads against this particular wall for so many years. People who read my work often ask, “Why AREN’T you published?” I can’t always tell whether they’re being sarcastic (because they feel that it’s obvious as to why) or sincere (because they think my work is good enough to be published), but they ask. I have nothing sensible to tell them except “I don’t know,” because “I’m not good enough” is simply not true.
I believe that my problem is in part that I’m from a previous generation and not in the same groove as the twenty-years-younger agents (and most of the editors as well). I simply approach the art differently. I’ve asked several of the agents who’ve passed after seeing the full manuscript of whatever novel of mine to tell me whether it’s the writing, the story, or what; ALL of those who responded have said, “It’s not your writing. Your writing is very strong.” They have NOT said, “get rid of adverbs,” “speed up the pace,” and all the stuff that critique groups fall back on. Some of them have also said, “it’s not the story.” They have no reason to “be nice” to me, so they must mean it’s some other intangible. Or it’s just the hex that’s been on me for years. Or it’s just that they aren’t that into me and they found somebody else’s work that DOES sing to them. No matter what “it” is, though, it’s there, and it’s not going away. I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) change my entire worldview in order to be able to write the types of books that seem to sell well.
I just need to get over the channeling of my creative drive into writing. But there doesn’t seem to be anything else that I do very well.
I also have a dilemma: I pre-registered for a writers’ conference last month and signed up for an agent interview with a particular agent who seemed like a good fit. I then queried her (as the conference staff suggested, so that we’d have something to talk about at the interview) and got a request for a partial of _Camille’s Travels_, followed by a request for a full. Three weeks later (last Tuesday), she replied with the succinct version of a pass. I replied to thank her for her quick response and to ask her whether I might send another query in hopes of finding a book that might fit (after all, _Camille_ isn’t the best prose I’ve ever turned out, but it’s a good story and the voice fits that story; perhaps one of my mysteries or the women’s fiction would be appealing to her). She basically let me know that there’s NOTHING I could write that she’d be interested in. So now what? I don’t want to go out into the wilds of rural East Texas (a church retreat encampment out at Camp Shiloh, miles outside Mt. Pleasant, which could be termed “the middle of dang nowhere” even by residents) and spend two days there talking to other authors and waste the money. I was going there specifically to get an agent interview. There’s an editor of fantasy who will also be attending, but they’ve put me down for an interview with this agent and I don’t think I can get them to switch me–there are many writers who wanted to see the editor. Should I just get a refund? I don’t think it would be good for my self-esteem to have to see this agent and hear all about how great she is and know that I am a reject. Sure, a conference gets you all fired up about writing and sh*t, but that’s not what I need. What’s the point of getting fired up and spending all your time typing when it’s just a barbaric yawp? I can do a screed right here for free (just as I’m doing). I don’t have to spend $150 and waste two days getting mosquito bites on my you-know out there by the lake.
Or should I make myself go and once again try to figure out what’s wrong with me by comparison with these others? It seems as if I can get a putdown for free anywhere, and save the $150 for the grocery bill.
I’m glad I found out early, even though I’m not quite sure yet what I’ll do.
Maybe some of you would be interested in the conference. It’s the NETWO conference in East Texas; you can Google it. I know that there’s a good conference experience waiting there for those who are seeking a different kind of validation or who just want to get together for a workshop and market news. And you’d get to see the Piney Woods up close in the early spring (this is in April). Do bring mosquito repellent, though.
Seriously, it really could be fun to stay in the cabins and enjoy the rural-ness and the togetherness. I know you’d have a cool experience if you decided to attend . . . and I might be there. I’m still making up my mind.
(It’s very rumpled. Instead of making it up, perhaps I should change the sheets. It needs the deep-corner kind, so they’re tough to find. But I suspect the mattress is fairly well hopeless.)