Monday, December 3, 2012

Howdy From Leah Rae Miller: The Writer Who's Doing It Differently

I just want to start off by saying thanks to all you for the great response we've gotten so far on the blog! As you can imagine, we were a little nervous (or at least I was, lol) about doing another writing blog, but we thought we had an original concept. Having you all be so excited and following SLOW (I cracked up when Stefanie brought our acronym to my attention) here and on Twitter has been ah-mazing! Now, on to some writing talk!

I've had a love of reading for as long as I can remember. I was that kid in high school who picked the longest book out of the selection to do a report on. But, I'd never thought of being a writer. That just seemed like one of the careers that only special people got to do, kind of like being an actor or a musician. It took a lot of floundering through life (two failed attempts at college, jobs at lame places like Wal-Mart and Blockbuster, a failed website design business, becoming a wife, mother, and homeowner) for me to figure out that I could be a writer.

The idea started to percolate when I discovered romance novels. I've talked about my love for the genre before over on the Entangled Teen blog. I fell in love with them and started to formulate my own stories. After a couple of unfinished manuscripts, more life stuff happened and writing got put on the back-burner. A couple of years later I read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I was so enchanted by the story that I checked out Stephanie's blog and was in awe of how cool it must be to be an author.

I mean, you get to do something you love, share that something with people and maybe have them love it too, AND you can work from home (which really means you don't have to change out of your pajamas if you don't want to)! After digging a little deeper into the online book community, I wanted to commit. I wanted to see if I could do it. So, in December 2010 I started a blog to record the adventure of writing my first novel. It was a YA fantasy story about dreams and teenagers who are part gods who can jump in and out of people's dreams... And it was a train wreck, of course. Seriously, I started the book with a dream, had my main character wake up from the dream, and then go to the bathroom to look in the mirror.

*SHIVER* Yeah, it was that bad.
(Don't get me wrong, that kind of opening can be done, but it has to be done super well to work. I had not done it super well O_O)

It took me 6 or 7 months to finish. After editing it, I sent out a grand total of *drum roll* ONE query. Now that I look back on it, it was the hardest query to send out. I was a nervous wreck as my mouse pointer hovered over the send button. But I did it. And got no response. After realizing the book needed a complete rewrite, I tucked it away telling myself I'd revisit it one day which I still plan to do.

Then the idea for The Summer I Became a Nerd hit me. I threw the idea out to Stefanie and she said, "Go with it!"

TSIBaN took much less time to write, about 3 or 4 months. I got some interest from an agent before it was even done due to me putting a description up on my blog. When it was ready, I sent out more than one query, lol. I think it was more like 11.

So, December and January of 2012 went by. I got rejections. I'd only heard back from maybe 5 of the 11 I'd sent. The only request from an agent I received was from the one who stumbled upon it on my blog. I was starting to feel a little down on the querying process. I believed I had a great story and didn't understand why no one wanted to look at it. That's when I looked into Entangled Publishing in February. The difference between the way I felt when I sent that first query not even a year before and in sending this query was night and day.

First query feels

My feels after having done it more than a few times.

Here's the query that got the book noticed:

Dear Ms. Howland,

On your February wish list, you mentioned LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR which I found to be full of heart and quirky characters. So, I thought you might be interested in my manuscript. Here's a little about it:

Seventeen-year-old Emma Jean Summers may look like just another dumb, blond cheerleader as she strolls through the halls with her quarterback boyfriend, but on the inside, she wonders about what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book or if that sci-fi show she's obsessed with will be canceled. The fact that she is a huge nerd hiding in a popular girl's body is not just unknown, it's ANTI-known, and she wants to keep it that way.

Now that school is out for the summer, Emma can finally spend some alone time with who she really is. That is, until Alan finds out about her secret. He's the adorkable guy behind the counter at the local comic shop, and pretty soon, she starts to give in to being a true geek with him as her mentor. During the next few weeks, he introduces her to a world of comic conventions, live-action role playing, and first-person-shooter video games.

It's when she lies to her parents, using her best friend as an excuse to go on these nerdy excursions, that things start to get sketchy. Not to mention, Emma's boyfriend, who's on vacation, would probably be kind of upset to find out she's falling for another guy. It's only a matter of time before everything blows up in her face, and she learns what people actually think about who she truly is.

THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD is my 62,000 word YA romantic comedy inspired by John Hughes' classic eighties films and my lifetime love of comic books. Below are the first 5 pages. I've been blogging for over a year here: I can also be found on Twitter (@LeahR_Miller). Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Wishes,
Leah Miller

Twenty minutes later I got a response from Heather asking for the full! A week later I was talking to her on the phone! A couple of days after that I was signing the contract! That's how crazy the publishing industry can be, folks.

I'm still not agented, which I hope to fix in the coming year. Maybe having already been published will give me a leg up, maybe not. I hope to share that journey with you all, as well. At the moment, I'm working on edits, trying to make this book shine per the suggestions of my editor.

And there you have it! I'm extremely looking forward to discussing writing and publishing and all that goodness with all of you!

Once again, it's contest time!!!! I'm giving away a whopping $10 gift certificate to Amazon, just enough for a new book. I won't say that you HAVE to pre-order my book, but I thought I'd let you know that it is up for pre-order... Just saying ;)

I'll also be giving away a query critique. Same rules apply. If you don't need it or want it, you can pass it on to a friend or whatever :)

Contest ends Wednesday so get to entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

14 secret replies:

  1. Love that story! Such a perfect illustration of how many ways there are to get it "right"! Plus, your book sounds pretty freakin' fantastic, so, there's that! *runs to add to TBR*

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Dahlia! I love how there are so many different ways to "make it"! And thanks for running to that TBR :D

  2. Wow! That sounds like an awesome book. Definitely right up my alley. Putting it on my wish list right now! :) Thanks for the reminder that there are many avenues to publication!

  3. More evidence that there's no such as thing as "one true path" to publication. Thanks for sharing your query as well!

    1. Definitely no "one true path" :) Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Wow what an awesome story! I love that your publishing path was nontraditional. Congrats on your book deal, it sounds great. As someone who is a giant nerd who often hid portions of myself from others I totally identify with Emma's story. I can't wait to read your book!

    1. Thanks, Jamie! And thanks for stopping by! Also, yay nerds!!!

  5. What a great story! I think Entangled is really great the way it takes a chance on unagented authors and it's so awesome you found such a great home for your book :) Congratulations!

    1. Thanks, I couldn't be happier with where this book has ended up :)

  6. Congrats to you, and I can't wait to read your book! It sounds so fantastic!!

  7. I have lived some parts of that story. Good job sticking it out! Very excited about your book. :-)

    1. I'm super excited to read your book as well, Lydia! Thanks for commenting :)