How Long Did It Take You To Write It?

When I tell people I have a book coming out, this is probably the question I get asked the most. It’s kind of a long answer because, unfortunately, books do not appear via stork on the doorstep or spring fully formed from an author’s head like Athena from Zeus. This is how my book was born.

Side note: Writing this has been a lesson in why it’s important to keep journals and records because my memory is horrible, and it took much longer than it should have to figure out this timeline.

I wrote the first draft of What is Hidden in 2009 as a NaNoWriMo Novel with the working title Mask of Trust. It’s also been called Unmasked, and simply Hidden.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, where you challenge yourself to write 50,000 words in one month. I reached the 50,000 word goal, but I didn’t finish the novel, and because I was doing so much at that time — working full-time and preparing to move to Japan in the spring. Unfortunately, that meant that once November ended, the novel was put on the backburner. I would think about it all the time, but I didn’t really pick it back up to work on it until after I moved back to the States in the spring of 2011. Then, I finally wrote the end and revised for about a month until I thought I was ready to move on to the next step.

So I had a manuscript and I wanted it out in the world. I read up on how one does that, and because the internet is a wonderful thing, it’s pretty easy to figure out. You can run your own Google searches for detailed information or I’ll do another post another time if there’s interest, but basically, you usually need an agent to pitch your manuscript to a publisher. To get an agent, you sent out super-fun letters called query letters that condense all your work and life down to one page. I think I spent about three weeks writing and re-writing mine.

My first query was sent out June 20, 2011. I kept a nice spreadsheet of details on agents and when I contacted them and what responses I received (I highly recommend doing this so you don’t lose track of who you submitted to or who you’re waiting to hear back from, as it often takes weeks or even months). The very first agent requested a full manuscript from my query and I thought I was going to be one of those amazing stories where I get picked up right away and life would be rainbows and sparkles and ice cream with sprinkles.

But seeing as that was back in June of 2011, clearly that was not the case. In the end, they decided to pass. Just a few months later in October with several more rejections in my inbox, I realized the manuscript was not as good as it should have been or it could be. I found some critique partners and went back to editing. My writing method generally involves a lot of thinking and planning out before I write anything, so sometimes months would pass while I mulled something over in my head, but I wasn’t consistently writing anything down.

I started querying again in February 2013 and went through about 25 rejections and a couple other false starts. I was still learning what worked and what didn’t work with the story, and would put it away then look at it again with fresh eyes every few months. All the rejections were polite and many encouraged me to keep trying with someone else who would be a better fit (a lot of “It’s not you, it’s me”). It’s also important to note that this whole time, I was also working on other projects (including another NaNoNovel I might still go back and fix up) and going to every author signing or event in my area, and of course working full-time at my day job.

Then, one of my friends knew that Cedar Fort was looking for submissions. They were publishers that accepted unsolicited manuscripts, meaning I didn’t need an agent. I got my stuff together and sent it in. A few days later, November 6, 2013, I received an email titled Offer to Publish – “What is Hidden”.

After that, things moved pretty quickly and here we are! Now it’s going through the editing process to get it ready for publication, which I’ll talk about another time, and then it will be available to buy in May! If you have any other questions about the process, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer.

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