The Writing Lessons I Learned in 2013, Part I

2013! We hardly knew you!

In the next few days, I thought I'd chronicle a few of the lessons I learned over the course of good ol' 2013. Initially I had intended to write only one blog post but you know how longwinded I can get. Ramble, ramble.

So behold! Part I of my lessons learned this year!

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Can I tell you a secret? 

Earlier this year, I was lost in the Pit of Despair. I had spent six years working toward my dream of getting published but that dream only seemed to taunt me, always slipping out of my fingertips. In February, I hit my lowest of lows when I attended a signing at a local indie bookstore. I went to the event to support a writer whom I had met at a conference in the summer of '09. She was so sweet and supportive and so very deserving of her success, but I couldn't stop comparing her rocketing career to my own struggling one. 

She was on a book tour, promoting her highly anticipated debut.
She had multiple books contracted with her awesome Big Five publisher.
Her dream had really come true, hadn't it?

I went home that night with my heart sinking. I was elated for my friend—I really can't say enough about how kind she is!—but I felt exhausted by the publishing process and the seemingly endless rejection. As I lay in bed, I decided it might be best for me to take a step back from my writing endeavors. I would channel my creative energy into photography and graphic design (I even created a website for a potential blog design venture) until I felt that spark for writing again.

Much to my shock though, a few weeks later, Agent Jim called me with the news that Scholastic had made an offer on my book! I honestly couldn't believe it. I sort of stood there, cell phone in hand, completely surprised and speechless. Completely frozen.

{The northern Californian coast, taken in June 2013. The same day I found out I was pregnant!}

So yes! My writing journey definitely surprised me this year, especially because I had hit so many road bumps in 2011 and 2012. After running the gamut of disappointment and dejection—so fun!—it felt incredibly humbling to have this book deal land into my lap. It was like I had been chasing a rainbow until my legs couldn't move anymore and then...BOOM!...I finally get to that pot of gold.

To be honest, I still can't quite believe it.

That's the funny thing about this business, I think. Most of the time, we're just trying to stay afloat in these murky writing waters—with our word counts, with our deadlines, with the inevitable frustration and loneliness. But then once in awhile, the clouds part and the Publishing Gods smile upon you, usually at the most unsuspecting times. 

Those are the times we live for. That make everything worth it.

At least that's what my experience has been like. For instance, back in 2010, I had been querying for nearly a year and almost ready to give up on my little middle grade novel. I told myself that I'd finish contacting the list of agents I had compiled and move on. But then, you know what? Boom! An agent offer came my way and then two more. That's the book that nabbed me Agent Jim and while it didn't end up selling (weeping all of the silent tears), I still remember how shocked I was when I got that first call. Hadn't I planned on giving up only a couple weeks before?

Yep, it was definitely a huge surprise. A great surprise! But the 'surprises' after landing an agent weren't as happy-making: shelving that MG book, re-writing a new manuscript, and facing another heap of editorial rejection when I was so sure that success was around the corner. Writing can be so hard! But that's another lesson, I suppose....

Looking ahead to the new year, I'm sure my writing journey holds more surprises for me, some good and some bad and some simply unexpected. This is something that I've had to adjust to because I'm the sort of person who likes to lay out five-year plans and who balks at any sort of change (what do you mean I can't buy my favorite Skittles anymore?!). But being an author has forced me to sit back and loosen my grip on the reins. Because the only things I can control in this business are writing books and revising said books. The rest? It's kind of a big surprise.

Still, I'm hoping that another good surprise lies ahead of me in 2014. I'll hope for it anyway.

But if that isn't in the cards for me, who needs a new blog redesign?!