Friday, November 30, 2012

A Big Wave Hello from Heather Marie: The Writer Who Wouldn't Give Up

When Stefanie and Leah invited me to be a part of The Secret Life, I didn't think twice. If there's one thing I love as much as writing, it's the chance to encourage other writers to keep going. Getting an agent is not easy, which was something I learned pretty quick. But thankfully, I had some amazing friends, both published and unpublished, who gave me all sorts of great advice and even took the time to read my work.

When I first started writing YA, which was around July of 2011, I didn't even know about the writing community on Twitter. I had an account, of course, but I didn't start following any agents or authors until well after I finished my first manuscript. Writing has always been a big part of my life, and as a kid I swore one day I'd become a published author. That dream dwindled after a while, because I knew that college wasn't for me and assumed I wouldn't get a chance if I didn't take classes. Silly, I know. It wasn't until one night last year that I decided it was now or never.

I wrote my first YA Fantasy titled In the Light of Anastasia. It revolved around a girl who discovered she was a Healer whose power came from the stars. Believe it or not, I later found out that there was a self published book with an identical premise that had almost every single thing similar to what happened in my book. I swear I'd never read it before. So anyway. It was complete at 43K and I was like, "I'm amazing! This is the best thing ever! I should query this." *shaking my head* Wow. What a newb! Needless to say, I got nearly a hundred rejections. However, I did get a request from a publishing company that was a complete joke. Though at the time I didn't know it. Nothing came of it, but even that little bit of hope (even if it was for nothing) gave me what I needed to continue.

I wrote a vampire novel titled Crimson shortly after. I mean, we all write a vampire book at some point right? Right. As you could imagine it got major rejections. No one even wanted to look at it. Now I get why, but at the time I was crushed. Let's not forget to mention that I knew nothing about critique partners or beta readers. This was all strictly me reading through my manuscript two or three times and thinking it was good to go. *le sigh*

My third book was titled Revival. It was a YA Urban Fantasy about yet another girl who had powers. I thought bringing a Paladin into the YA world would be original. Side note: One thing you learn along the way is that no idea is completely original. That's just cold hard facts. There's always gonna be something similar to your manuscript, whether it's big or small, it's there. With that, I collected yet another round of about seventy rejections.

Did that stop me? Nope.

My fourth book was THE one. It had to be. I remember telling my husband about it and he said, "This is it." I doubted him, because I didn't want to get my hopes up. He still says, "I told you so." HA!

So here's my query for the book that got me an agent.
Dear Michelle, 
Darkness surrounds sixteen-year-old Bailey Green when ghostly Hannah Melbrooke seeks to consume Bailey’s life––a life she believes should be her own. 
Having a ghost attached to you isn’t exactly what Bailey would call ideal. The victim of a drowning––an unknown force locks Hannah within the confines of Bailey’s bedroom for years. When Hannah escapes into the outside world, Bailey’s haunting burden becomes an impossible secret to keep. Bailey soon begins to see Hannah for who she really is––a spiteful soul looking for vengeance. 
When Hannah threatens the life of Bailey’s best friend, Eric Montgomery, she demands Bailey’s cooperation in her resurrection. Realizing her love for Eric is more than friendship, Bailey is willing to give whatever it takes to save him. But Bailey doesn’t know that the more she believes in Hannah, the stronger she becomes, granting her freedom from her prison. Bailey must find a way to defeat Hannah before she kills Eric and destroys Bailey’s life and soul.  
DROWNING BAILEY is a YA Horror with romantic elements complete at 56,000 words. It will interest fans of Anna Dressed in Blood and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. I can be contacted at: heathermwrites@gmail.com and xxx-xxx-xxxx. 
I can also be found on Twitter at: xheatherxmariex
Thank you for considering my manuscript. 
Sincerely, 
Heather Marie
This goes to show that having a friend critique your query is a MUST. My original query was so long that my friend Jessica Taylor had to cut it down for me. She used everything I said, but helped me refine it so that it would capture an agent's attention, not put them to sleep. I was also very picky about who I queried this time around, making sure to pick the agents who really wanted horror/supernatural manuscripts.

In the end, I only sent out forty queries. Within two in a half months, I got seven requests. I've only ever received that one request from a not-so-reliable publishing company. So those seven requests were huge for me. I was ecstatic. I had originally stopped at thirty nine queries, but when Michelle Witte announced she had begun working with Mansion Street, I knew I had to query her. We had been corresponding through Twitter for sometime, and I knew she was interested in ghost stories and the like. DROWNING BAILEY showed me that writing horror/supernatural was my element and she was perfect for it.

When I got her request for a full, I flipped! She was who I wanted from the get go and I knew it in my heart. You can only imagine how I felt six weeks later when she asked to schedule a phone call. I had no doubts that Michelle and I would be perfect together and I know that even more so now. When she offered to represent me, a huge sense of accomplishment hit me. All of that hard work amounted to something and I have all my friends, betas, and critique partners to thank.

Well, this post got a little out of hand. I didn't realize I would write this much. Why don't we get to the giveaway, shall we? You have until Monday, December 3rd to enter to have the first 25 pages of your manuscript critiqued. Good luck!

Winner will be announced shortly! 

47 secret replies:

  1. Another awesome, really inspiring post! Thank you for this! Am off to continue working on my query letters now... :) xx

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    1. Thank you for checking it out and good luck with querying! It's all worth it in the end. ;)

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  2. Thank you for this! This article and this blog are amazing and make me feel so much better about the journey ahead.

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    1. That means a lot to us, Trisha. Our goal is to help others prepare for what happens after the fact and we hope our stories help in every way.

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  3. Love inspiring posts that keep us wannabe writers writing :D way-to-go being my inspiration

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    1. Nobody is a wannabe around here. We're all writers, no matter what stage we're at. ;)

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  4. Seeing queries that worked is the best thing. I appreciate you providing yours so much!

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    1. Absolutely, Lori! It's helpful to see what works and knowing that short and sweet is the best way to go. Good luck!

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  5. Thanks so much for sharing your story and reminding us all that we should never give up! :)

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    1. You are so welcome, Amy! There were many times that I felt it would never happen, but we all go through that. You just gotta keep truckin'!

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  6. Awesome story, and DROWNING BAILEY sounds perfectly spooky!

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    1. Thank you! There were a few times when I spooked myself out while writing it.

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  7. Love the query. Drowning Bailey sounds great!

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    1. Thank you! I think it's kind of neat, if I do say so myself. ; )

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  8. I love stories like this. Definitely inspires me to keep going. Thanks for the contest!

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  9. I remember how I first felt when I was asked for pages by an agent. It's so exciting!

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    1. It really is one of the best feelings in a writer's life, even if that agents passes. It's the little things you have to hold on to and the fact that they requested is awesome. :)

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  10. awesome story! congrats on landing your agent. Drowning Bailey sounds like a great book!

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    1. Thank you so much! This year has been pretty amazing.

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  11. Thanks for this post! It's really encouraging!

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  12. Your writing journey looks a lot like mine: Stacks of rejections on the early novels I thought were edited well, before I discovered the joy that is critique partners and the writing community on Twitter. I go back and look at those first attempts, and laugh and laugh. :D Congrats!

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    1. OMG. I totally looked through my manuscripts a few weeks ago and cringed. Wow. I don't know what I was thinking, but hey, it was a learning process. Where would I be without them?

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  13. Hi Heather! Your story was really inspirational. It's great to hear a success story from someone who didn't take the traditional route of going to college. Thanks for sharing it with us!

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    1. Thank you! I thought that would be my biggest downfall. It's something I still consider looking into it. We'll see what happens.

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  14. Great post and really inspiring story!!! I can't wait toread Drowning Bailey :D I remember my first Fantasy manuscript, where I thought I'd be the next Tamora Pierce--I'm totally rewriting it to be more Kristin Cashore, now, but I think our failures teach us a lot about what we really want as writers. Can't wait for more posts on Secret Life!!! Thanks for the giveaway :)

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    1. I agree. I learned a lot from my failed manuscripts. but were they really failures? In the writing world, yes. But to me, they took me where I needed to go. My writing has changed significantly because of it, and I'm grateful for those silly little stories. :)

      Thanks for entering the giveaway! good luck

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  15. I loved this post, thanks! It is so helpful for me to read sample query letters and hear about other people's experiences. I am currently working on my first book and I have no idea how any of this stuff works. Thanks again!

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    1. Just remember that there is an amazing writing community out there. Twitter is a great way to meet other writers and to find out more about how things works. You'll also find some great resources and critique partners. Good luck on your writing venture!

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  16. Thanks so much for posting this! I love seeing the different query letters included in each post.

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    1. You are so welcome! Thanks for checking it out. :)

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  17. Thank you so much for your story, Heather. These experiences are seriously inspiring. I love reading them and I can't wait to see more from all of you! Thank you for including the part about college. I've always been the same way about it, and while I know I *can* still write and get published, it's a little intimidating because a lot of new authors getting published all seem to have a masters in bio chemistry or something. O.o It's easy to not feel qualified. Thankfully, when I actually do stop to think about it, I realize that the only qualification I need to write is to write. :)

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    1. Absolutely! It's all about doing what you love and practicing your craft. It's amazing how much your writing changes with every manuscript.

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  18. Great success story! I love that you just had a feeling about an agent. I do too - and not querying til I KNOW it's ready! Congrats.

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    1. And only query a few agents at a time. You might get some great feedback from an agent or two and decide to revise. That'll leave it open for you to query more agents with the revised manuscript. It's that whole "don't put all your eggs in one basket" kind of a thing. :)

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  19. This is really funny to read but I guess it is easier to be light-hearted about now that you've succeeded. I think that critique partners and betas are definitely so important though :) Thanks so much for sharing your story!

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    1. Have CPs and beta readers makes such a HUGE difference. It's unbelievable. Thanks for reading!

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  20. Congrats on getting an agent. I remember querying too early too (back in the day) and getting tons of rejections. I now have CP's and beta's and they help. I am still trying to find the elusive agent and in the words of a character from Harry Potter, "It's like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands." LOL. I did do a vampire book, it's a mashup of Jane Eyre and vampires called, THORNFIELD MANOR and it's on fanfiction.net. I had fun writing that one. My advice to one and all, KEEP GOING.

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  21. Dear Heather,

    Hello. It's nice to "meet" you. I love your post and appreciate hearing how your writing journey connected you to your agent. It's inspiring! I'm on my own journey, with my own path, and I'm loving the process. I want to treasure each step because I know I will find "the one" agent who gets me and can help my manuscripts sing, maybe even soar.

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    1. Good luck to you! You're gonna find that agent and he/she will be worth the wait.

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  22. Found the comments! :) Michelle seems really great! I loved hearing about your writing journey. Very inspiring. :)

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    1. Thank you! And yeah, she's pretty awesome. :)

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  23. I love this post. I love it so much I've started dipping my toes into the pool of critique partners (there's a whole load of them swimming underground, didn't you know?) Thanks for inspiring us first-timers!

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