Almost exactly one year ago, I got on a plane to fly to Australia. I had about 20,000 words of a new book, a lot of emotional baggage, and a metric ton of doubts. Not much to go on, really, but I knew I had to get moving on my dream of being a writer or I’d be waiting for something to happen to me forever.
I had quit my job the year before in order to attend an amazing six-week writing workshop. I worked part time after that, while struggling to shove my inner editor into a closet long enough for me to get words on a page. I started hating everything I’d ever written. I spent months sitting in my room, telling everyone I was working, while I stared at blank documents and fell asleep every night crying because I couldn’t make myself work. I was putting so much pressure on myself that nothing came out when I tried to write, covering up what was happening so that nobody would realize what a failure I was. Each day I felt more and more like I’d lost the spark that drove me to write when I was younger, like I had no more to offer, that there was nothing left but to give up.
But then in March of 2010 something changed. I got an idea, which wasn’t different in and of itself, except for the fact that this idea lit a fire underneath me like I hadn’t felt since I was a kid. Part of me wanted to shout, “Hang on, slow down, you’re not good enough to write this yet.” The rest of me said, “HELL WITH THAT!” I thank my lucky stars I listened to voice number two.
That idea, of course, was for THE IRON WOOD. I showed the first few chapters to my amazing and long-suffering critique partner, Amie, just praying the reaction would be better than a tactful “Well, at least you’re writing.” Instead, she blew me away by inviting me to Australia to live with her and her husband for a year in order to finish the book because she believed in it that much.
I only allowed myself to take up her offer after promising myself that I would write every day–EVERY DAY–until I finished the book. I even woke up to write on the flight as I crossed the international date line, just to be sure. I finished the book at the beginning of July, about three and a half months after starting it. I revised. I gave it to friends to critique. I revised again. I tentatively started entering query contests. Suddenly agents wanted to see my manuscript, and I scrambled to get queries out.
In December I got my first offer of representation. By the end of the year, I signed with my wonderful agent, Josh. I revised some more. I went through a period that was difficult for reasons both creative and personal. I dragged myself out of it by rewriting the book yet again. Then Josh went out with THE IRON WOOD, and before I really knew what was going on, publishers in multiple countries wanted to buy my book.
And two weeks ago, I finally got to share with you all that I’d done what I set out to do–that I’d written, revised, queried, and sold my book.
I’m not really used to being proud of myself. But it’s been a very strange year. A wonderful year. A difficult year, too.
And tomorrow I get on the plane to go back to America. I’m going to miss Australia intensely. But I’m also really looking forward to whatever is next.