This year has been beyond description for me. As a writer, I should have all the words in the world to put it into perspective, but they’re just not coming.
Back in January, I threw caution to the wind and entered my manuscript in a YA novel contest. I figured I had nothing to lose.
So I waited.
The day after the ex walked out the door, I hung this in my bedroom.
It’s right across from my bed, and I would look at it every night before I went to sleep.
It helped to remind me that no matter how sucky today looked, everything starts over when I open my eyes tomorrow.
So I just kept plugging away.
And here I am.
If you followed me over here from my other name, you know that I’ve made a name for myself blogging for places like Woman’s Day, BlogHer, Mom’s Magazine and on my own platform. I’ve also published a couple of non-fiction books and done a ton of article freelancing.
So I had some street cred when it comes to writing, I had a social media platform, and those two things are usually great for a debut novelist to have. I actually debated just keeping the regular name (I even submitted my novel in the contest under the original name) but after hashing it over with my agent and a few other people in the biz, we agreed on an offshoot of the name.
So Ellie DeLano became L.E. DeLano, YA novelist.
See that last word at the bottom of the signature page?
It says “Author.”
And I signed under it with the biggest, baddest flourish I could manage, capped my pen and danced in my living room.
Then I called a friend and said “Please tell me I’m not going to wake up from this with the alarm going off and a cat’s butt in my face.”
I knew from the minute we started talking contract, that I wanted an agent on my side.
And that’s not a slam in any way at Swoon – the contract offer was good, fairly and transparently presented, and I was encouraged to ask questions at every step while it was being laid out. Many of Swoon’s authors work without an agent and do very well for themselves, without shaving off 15% for someone else.
But I had no idea what the hell I was doing. It all seemed great to me, but what did I know? Maybe comparatively, it wasn’t all it could be. Maybe there was more I could ask for that I wouldn’t even think about – and I’m not just talking money. There is a lot to consider when you’re looking at rights and royalties and a lot of details that I was completely clueless about.
I have no idea why, but I didn’t check my email that day. I opened it the following morning, while munching on a bagel at my day job.
And then I started hyperventilating, sure I had to have read that wrong.
Then I went to the restroom, sat down on a toilet and put my head between my knees so I wouldn’t pass out.
I remember my hands were shaking.
I really don’t remember how I found out about the Swoon Reads YA novel contest – I think perhaps on Twitter. I’d only just started tweeting on a regular basis – it had been an occasional thing before – and trying to get my follower count up, and I came across a tweet about the contest.
It’s a revolving contest – Swoon is an imprint of MacMillan Publishing that targets YA fiction, and the contest is set up as sort of a crowd-sourced slush pile. You submit your manuscript, complete with cover art (or you can select a generic cover from their collection) and then you wait.
I had a book.
Or at least, I thought I had. I took the idea of there being another world on the other side of the mirror, and I expanded on it. What if there were many, many worlds there? What if a mirror was just a portal?
Why would you go there? What makes you different that you’re able to go there? What if something goes wrong while you’re on the other side?
58,000 words, and I had a clear beginning, middle and end. I had a good protagonist, a budding love story (because YA loves a love story) and even a hint of a potential love triangle. I set it up to work as a stand-alone, or perhaps be part of a larger series of books – which is ideal when you’re talking about YA.
I waded through the fetid Fanfiction swamps (much like that dreck above) in search of the ever-elusive pearl: a well-written story featuring the characters I loved. As a Oncer, I’m also a die-hard Captain Swan shipper, and stories about Hook and Emma are the most popular in the fandom. I found a few good writers, and one day a story idea came to me and I thought, “What the hell – might as well get it out.”
I threw caution to the wind and wrote my first chapter, and then the next, and the next. Thirty-three days and three hundred and eighty-one positive reviews later, I realized two things: Continue reading
I have never not been writing.
I’ve journaled for as long as I can remember, written stories innumerable. I even wrote Star Trek fanfics as a kid that I would act out with stuffed animals.
In high school, I was an avid member of the Speech and Drama club, and I tried my hand at playwriting, winning trophies and medals and even a small scholarship once for my efforts.
In college, I turned to my love for the stage, giving it 110%, and while I still journaled, the rest of the writing went fallow.
After college, life happened. I got a job, got married, had kids, stayed a working mom…and then it all went kaboom when “mom” became “special needs mom” and not long after became “single mom.” Continue reading