Sometimes directions are clear: “Turn left at the next stop light.” Other times, the directions can be convoluted: “Take the next right. Keep left.” (My GPS often says this, in fact. Amazingly unhelpful.)
In 2013, I started in a new direction. I quit my job with the school district to pursue a writing career full-time. I finished my bachelor’s degree and wanted a change.
Immediately thereafter, I finished my first young adult fantasy novel and had begun writing its sequel. I took a class on antagonists from Writing Jedi Master Kristen Lamb. When we spoke on the phone about my story, I learned it was gobbledygook without a clear purpose.
Back to the drawing board. For another young adult fantasy series, which Kristen and I had discussed during the heart-shattering call. Her advice: write the entire series before going back to edit book one. That way I’d know what the “real” story of the series was by the time I was rewriting.
Six months later, I had three complete novels in very rough first draft form. The summer of 2014, I attempted to market the first book in the series. By the time I’d gotten the final rejection back, I knew the first book
was crap needed work.
But I had this amazing idea for a contemporary young adult fantasy. Dragons, erupting volcanoes, teenagers with special powers and the end of the world at stake. Who wouldn’t want to read that?
Or maybe the question should be: who wants to read it?
I’m still waiting for the rest of the rejection letters to roll in, but I think I finally figured something out.
What I Can Sell
As much as I love young adult fantasy, I’m not going to break into publishing with those stories.
No, I’m not giving up. I’m not copping out.
I’m being realistic.
Young adult is the fastest growing and most competitive fictional market right now. And fantasy has to have a certain bent to even get a look.
Sadly, dragons aren’t it.
Short fiction: I have sold three short stories. Two of them are sweet romances written to a new adult audience. The third is a young adult dark biblical retelling.
Bible studies: These are independently published by me, and I don’t price them to make a bundle. However, I do have a small following who enjoys my quirky teaching style.
Writing that Grows Me
In the end, writing the biblical fictionalization and Bible study books challenge me as a person. They require a slightly different writing voice and tons more research than most of my fiction stories.
In short, they stretch me out of my comfort zone.
And if people will buy them, I should produce them.
My Big Dream
During November, I wrote the first book in another young adult series.
I know. I know. I never learn.
What’s different about this book? It uses the short story I’ve already sold as a springboard into my post-apocalyptic universe. I continued the story of Scisco Irons, a sixteen-year-old blacksmith who dreams of discovering the technology destroyed in his homeland during the Demon Wars. And escaping the backward region he’s lived in forever.
I introduced a snarky teenage girl with major trust issues. Added in a “mentor” character with a pile of his own secrets.
The best part, I pitched the outline to the publisher of the short story (at her request, because she liked the world introduced in that story and saw potential for the story to continue). She wants to see it.
I have a professional editor who will help me content edit the first draft and polish the second draft to get it ready for submission. She’s employed by the publisher but has offered to help me because she believes in my story.
I submit this manuscript in May 2016. The publisher adores it and offers me a three-book contract (that will finish out the series as I’ve envisioned it).
During our conversations, I mention my four other manuscripts. She asks for outlines of each of them. Why not, right? It doesn’t cost her anything.
She sees the potential in all of them and offers me another contract on Doomsday Dragons and asks to see the first Gates of Astrya book before deciding on that series.
Of course, the Age of Apocalypse series will appear in bookstores everywhere during 2017-2019. I’ll have an enormous fan base. They’ll scarf up anything I write.
The rest is J.K. Rowling’s history.
Where I’m Going Now
As often as I’ve been accused of being a dreamer, I’ll argue that point. I’m a realist. Yes, I’m a realistic optimist, but I know better than to float on the puffy vapors of “hope it happens.”
I’m going forward. I have a novella releasing in a collection with nine other independent romance writers in February. And I’ll say this, romance rolls from my heart onto the page. Nearly effortlessly (and then the editing torture begins).
All those years of sneaking my mom’s romance novels into my room to read when I should have been sleeping are paying off. Unfortunately, those royalties aren’t buying too much at the moment.
I have another study book in the works. There are ideas for sequels to Reflections from a Pondering Heart, but I’m not convinced that’s where I should invest my time.
My biggest project idea is a grief memoir/Bible study combination. I’ve got this baby outlined, and I’ve started amassing research. Am I ready to tap into my personal losses for the memoir vignettes? That’s the big unknown.
I’ll keep subbing short stories to anthologies – romance, young adult and fantasy. My crazy ideas will find their way into the spiral notebook I have dedicated for them.
Writing is more than my passion or my dream. I’m convinced it’s my calling.
And I’m saying “yes.” Even if I’m unsure of the direction it will take me.
Any advice? What would you like to read from me?