Saturday, January 4, 2014

In review: 2013

I've read a lot of writer blog posts these past few days recapping things they learned in 2013 and sharing their hopes for 2014. Their stories have inspired me to write my own post. I guess mine is more of a writer evolution that encompasses more than 2013 but the majority of it does lie in this past year. So, here I go.

I have always loved to read. Always. If you've read my 'about me' link it will give you an idea of just how much. As a kid my dad built me a system of shelves in my room to hold all my books and every time the shelves looked about to break, my mom took me to the library or bookstore to donate all my books and get more. I read and re-read anything that would take me on an adventure. 

Then high school came and with it AP English. I had to stop reading for pleasure and start reading for a grade. That was not fun. Not all the books were bad though and I discovered several of my favorite classics this way. Life became much more busy during this time and after school activities and friends filled my life. Before I knew it I was in college and reading so much stuff just to pass my classes that leisure reading didn't even sound interesting. College ended, I met my husband and we got married and pregnant and our daughter was born and suddenly I was too tired to do anything but breathe. 

At some point during that first year of my daughter's life my dad told me about the Left Behind books he'd read and how he owned them all and he'd let me borrow them if I was interest. I thought, why not? I tore through 12 (I think that's how many there were) books in a couple of months. (My daughter was a baby and not doing much but sleeping and I was a bored stay-at-home mom and my husband worked all the time so I had plenty of time to read). Those books re-inspired my love of reading and when I was done I wanted more books to read. But I didn't know what kind of books I liked anymore so I didn't know where to start. 

It was around this time that TWILIGHT came out. I remember visiting my sister and she WOULD NOT put the book down while I was there. She said I had to read it. Well, eventually I did. And that was where I found the genre I love. YA books! I tore through the Twilight saga and moved on to every YA book my sister recommended (she's a 7th grade English teacher so she has the 'in' on what's hot). I think I read about 400 YA books in jut under 4 years. I loved talking with my sister and dissecting everything I read right after I read it. At one point she said "you should write a book." And yes the fact that Stephenie Meyer was a stay-at-home mom did come into that conversation. The whole "if she can do it you can do it" was probably tossed around. 

I thought about it and figured I'd give it a try. One day I sat down at my computer (a lovely Dell Inspiron with a flip screen that I still use!) and started brainstorming ideas. Most were sci-fi or fantasy and I started one or two WIPs before I lost steam and moved on or stopped altogether. Eventually I got the idea for my first completed MS--I AM CARAWAY. It took me about 4, maybe 6 months to write and edit it. Then I started researching my craft and realized I knew very little about writing and editing. I spent the next two years off and on learning and revising and polishing. 

That brings me to January 2013. I was ready to enter the community of writing so I got on Twitter and Facebook and started this blog. In February I went to the Breathless Reads tour stop at Book People in Austin. There I saw Jessica Khoury, Marie Lu, Andrea Cremer and Brenna Yovanoff. I fangirled so hard that night! It was a blast and it cemented my belief that I had found my place in the world--with fellow writers and readers. 

In April I sent out my first round of queries for CARAWAY...and promptly got my first round of rejections. In May I entered my MS in The Writer's Voice contest hosted by the lovely Brenda Drake, Cupid's Literary Connection, Monica Bustamante-Wagner, and Krista Van Dolzer. I got past the rafflecopter but no one picked me for their team ): But I did get a lot of support and encouragement from other participants and writers and it was a lot of fun. And each of the aforementioned ladies' websites and tweets and blogs have been invaluable to my growth as a writer. I really can't stress this enough--I owe these ladies a lot!

I kept querying through the summer and even started a new MS. Like many of my earlier stories, I lost steam on that MS too. This loss of momentum along with my mounting rejections on CARAWAY made me start to wonder if maybe this whole 'getting a book published' thing wasn't in the cards for me. I knew writing would stay a part of my life forever because I love telling stories and blogging and reviewing books but I wasn't so sure I would ever see a book of my own out there for others to read. 

At late summer I got a lovely rejection from a sweet agent who was kind enough to tell me that while my writing was good, there just wasn't a market for my type of book. It was something I kind of already thought might be the case but I had held hope that faeries would be the next big thing, like vampires and werewolves. But I was wrong. Paranormal was on its way out unless it was GOOD. Same with fantasy. Well CARAWAY is a historical (a hard sell in YA) fantasy. Some might even say it's Paranormal because of the faeries. After 56 queries, 2 FR, 2 Partials and 14 CNR, I made the decision to shelve my much slaved over first MS and move on. 

Summer started to draw to a close and since my youngest daughter was about to start Kindergarten, I decided it was time I go back to work. I started looking for a job and also started working on something that would have a better chance of getting me an agent: a realistic/contemporary. I began DEFENSIVE GUN in July and wrote like a crazy person. Two months later I was ready to query. Fast, I know. I pitched it on #Pitmad and got 6 favorites! I think I'd only had like 2 or 3 favorites when I pitched CARAWAY for #Pitchmas in July (a last ditch effort since I'd pretty much already said goodbye to that MS). I was thrilled at the interest in DEFENSIVE GUN and immediately sent out my queries to those agents who'd favorited my pitch as well as a few other agents. 

In the meantime my husband and I decided we wanted a bigger house. We put in an offer on one in our neighborhood because we love it here but the owner wouldn't budge on his ridiculously high asking price. We decided to move on from that house and have a house built (we signed the papers to start the process on my birthday--not a fun way to celebrate, BTW). Life immediately got crazy after that with Thanksgiving and Christmas. And the waiting game on hearing back from agents continued. But I did finally get two interviews for jobs so that was exciting...and scary. Pretty soon it's going to be no more full time mommy for me!

I've had a lot of interest in DEFENSIVE GUN and even several R&Rs. I won't go much further into detail since I am still in the process with this one. The agent feedback I've been lucky to receive as well as feedback from CPs (side note: How About We CP is a wonderful resource if you're looking for a critique partner) helped me realize that DEFENSIVE GUN wasn't as good as it could be. I underwent A LOT of revisions and I think I am finally at a place where the story is at its best. I hope, anyway. But alas that's the life of a writer for ya--lot's of self doubt! 

That brings me to the new year!! I don't ever make resolutions but I do have some hopes for this year. I hope this move into our new home happens smoothly and is easy on our kids. I don't handle change in my life well so I'm a bit anxious. I hope I find a job that I enjoy and I hope I can manage working and writing and being a mom and a wife at the same time. I don't want my writing to fall last because most days I think it's the only thing that keeps me sane. And the big one: I hope I get an agent! If not with DEFENSIVE GUN than with another MS...which I need to get started on writing (: 

The past year has been amazing. I have wonderful friends and family who support me and make me laugh. My kids are awesome and surprise me and make me smile every day. I hope my love of reading spreads to them and I hope they read the things I write one day and are proud of mommy. The writing community is wonderful and I feel so blessed to be a small part of it. I know fear and envy and self doubt will always be with me. And from reading other writer's blogs, I've learned that it never really goes away. Just getting an agent or getting your book published and sold doesn't guarantee you happiness or another book sold, or a carefree, fulfilled, and rich life. 

But I still think it would be pretty cool!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my very lengthy post! I hope your 2013 was wonderful and your 2014 is even better. Feel free to comment below, check out my other posts, see my Goodreads page, and follow me on Twitter (@christiemurillo).