Pretty much my whole life. Or at least since I could hold a pencil and string together a few words.
I never seriously considered it as a career option until my mid-twenties. Writing was always the thing I did on the side, the hobby, an escape into my own secret world. Authors seemed mythical creatures to me growing up. I knew someone wrote the stories I read, but I didn’t ever see it as a potential career path. Maybe this was because children are often warned that pursuing creative ventures can be full of heartbreak and struggles and long, uphill climbs.
Even with those cautionary tales, I went off to college and got a BFA in design. I worked as a web designer for several years, continuing to write on the side. Had it not been for the nudging of friends, family, and a critique partner, TAKEN would probably still be a .doc file on my hard drive rather than a book on shelves. And it was only after signing a contract with HarperTeen that I realized I had an opportunity to make my hobby a career.
It hasn’t influenced my actual craft, but it certainly helped shape my philosophy regarding the creative process.
During my years as a web designer, here’s what I learned to be true about making art: Some days you’ll throw out everything you create. Other days you’ll produce gold. Most days will be somewhere in between. No matter what, it will take hours of tweaking, polishing, revising, and reshaping to make your art match the vision in your head. Sometimes you won’t even be able to see what you’re trying to create until knee-deep in your own mess. There’s no right or wrong way to get to The End, but it will always take a ton of work. Critique is part of the process. Revision is part of the process. Your first attempt is never, ever the best it can be.
I think this is more or less true for every type of artistic venture. Writers, musicians, painters, designers…they are all creating. Every artist is trying to take something from his/her mind and capture it in the physical world. I’ve been approaching my writing with this mindset, just as I did my design work. The only notable difference now is the end product: words vs. visuals.
Honestly, the best advice I can give is to write the very best story you can. It sounds silly and straightforward, but your writing is the only thing you can control, so write and revise until it shines like a diamond. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t want to sound like Author X or Writer Y. You want to sound like you!
If you’re looking for further advice and inspiration, check out my resources for writers section.
I started writing Taken in April of 2010. I started querying agents that December. I signed with my agent in January of 2011, and sold Taken to HarperTeen on April Fool’s day in 2011. In the publishing industry, that’s pretty speedy. That said, Taken was not the first full length novel I’d ever written. I also spent countless years prior scribbling down story ideas, pretty much since childhood. There is also a luck and timing factor that plays into everything in publishing, and I was trying to sell an action-adventure/dystopia at the tale end of the Hunger Games craze. I think this greatly helped me snag a deal.
Yes, they are crucial, and no, they won’t steal your work.
I actually did a post about finding CPs awhile ago on Pub(lishing) Crawl. There are a few good resources listed there that you may want to check out for meeting other writers. (Similarly, this list of posts tagged with “critique partner” might also be helpful.)
Regarding ownership of your ideas — It’s understandable, but I encourage you to not worry about it. Any original work is copyrighted to you the moment you type it. And the road to publication is long and hard. Anyone trying to steal your idea would then have to find an agent to rep it, then receive a book deal, then undergo months of revisions (after signing a contract that the work was theirs), not to mention the fact that publishing is notoriously slow when it comes to paying writers. Basically, if someone is looking to make a quick buck off you, this is not the route they’d go. Stay vigilant and sharp regarding agents and editing services. That’s where the scams sometimes lie.
Perfect your query letter. Do your research. Query in batches.
You can also check out the “querying” section on my for writers page for my personal experience plus a querying worksheet and list of do’s and don’ts.
Yes! You can purchase signed/personalized copies of my books via Gibson’s Bookstore, my local indie here in New Hampshire. For information on placing an order, head here.
I get asked this question so often that I answered it over on tumblr.
Not at the moment, but one can always hope. *crosses fingers*
For more on how a book becomes a movie, be sure to check out this post by author Ally Carter.
I have “extras” pages for a few of my titles, which include links to interviews and guest posts that I’ve done about the book. Check these pages for more information: