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It’s a Writer Thing -- Looking Back

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 

Happy New Year, Wonderful Writers! I took a break from posting during December so I could focus on writing/editing and also enjoy the holidays. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and are ready for a new year of writing, reading, and moving forward toward your goals.

The start of a new year is a time when I always stop and think about where I am and how I got here. I often reflect on my path to my first career as a psychologist and all the things I accomplished. My favorite way to do this is to reflect on all the things that I’ve done/achieved or are happening now that weren’t part of my life 1 year ago.

For writing, for example, one year ago, I didn’t have the book deal for my debut novel, TEN AFTER CLOSING. I sit here writing this post on January 8th, and the offer came the evening of January 9th. It’s hard to put myself back to what it felt like to be in that place, waiting to see if my first experience with submission would go well or end in disappointment. Out of all my writing challenges, the hardest time was the interim between my agent telling me we had very strong interest on my book and the day the offer came. 

When I first started writing, which was late 2010, I started as a hobby. I literally had a conversation with myself about how I needed a new hobby, and I thought it would be fun to see if I could write a novel. I finished my first one about a year later, and I already knew I wanted to pursue a career in writing. (You can read my post about how I queried pretty much as soon as I finished that book, even though it was not even close to ready, right here. LOL!) I didn’t start to really connect with other writers with professional goals until 2012, and I met my writing group in 2013. At that time, because of them (I love you, Novelists!!), I began to learn a ton about the industry, and it's around then that I read my first How I Got My Agent/Book Deal posts. I remember reading posts from authors where it took them five years, or a decade, or 5, 7, 10 books to get from start to agent offer, and I was like, “Wow! That’s a long time. I don’t think I can do that. I’d probably give up.”

Shame on me! Now, I know better. 

I love writing so much, I’m ready to stick it out as long as necessary to reach whatever success is waiting for me. But back then, it just felt so daunting. 

And here I am, ready to do the math. So, how long did it take me? 

- Fall 2010: Started writing in November, I think

- Summer 2011: Told a dear friend I was writing, and she wrote me a note with my favorite inspirational phrase (which will sound familiar if you follow my posts): You can do it! You can write!

- December, 2011: 
  1. First book done (but not fully revised; I finished revisions in summer 2015. Starting with book three, my revisions started taking way less time, but my first two books were a hot mess and I still had SO much to learn.)  
  2. First (highly misguided) queries sent.

- January, 2012: Asked a writer, who was a friend of a friend, for some info/resources, and found my first critique group through SCBWI.

- July, 2013: Connected with my writing group! (YAAAAYYYY!!!!!!!!!)

- November, 2013: Second book done (but not fully revised; I finished revisions in Feb. 2016).

(Here’s where things heat up because I started plotting)

- August, 2014: wrote first short story. I won’t break down all my stories on this time line, but between then and mid-2016, I wrote nine.

- November, 2014: First attempt at NaNo. Third book done.

- December, 2014: 
  1. First short story accepted AND 
  2. This is when I began my website and social media presence.

- January, 2015: Actually started getting requests on my queries.

- March, 2015: My first short story was published. (Hooray!)



- June, 2015: Fourth book

- July, 2015: Offer from a small press on book number four.

- August, 2015: 
  1. Fifth book (TEN AFTER CLOSING). 
  2. Heard an audio book recording of my story for BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT (Happy tears. A lot.)

- September, 2015: Revise and Resubmit! (AHH!) But no offer.

- November, 2015: Sixth book done (BROKEN CHORDS) and FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is out!

- January, 2016: Seventh book

- February, 2016:  
  1. Found out Three World Press was closing, so bye-bye BREATHLESS and book number 4. (Sad tears. A lot.) 
  2. Offer on BROKEN CHORDS (Holy moly!!!). 
  3. Accepted into Pitch2Publication (So much excitement, I thought I might die.).

May, 2016: I GOT AN OFFER FROM A DREAM AGENT!!!! And we went on submission (GAH!).

- August, 2016: Eighth book

- November, 2016: Ninth book

- January, 2017: We got an offer on TEN AFTER CLOSING (Hooray!!!!!!!)

- February, 2017: Tenth book

- May, 2017: Self-published BREATHLESS.

- July, 2017: Eleventh book

- October, 2017: BROKEN CHORDS is out. (AHH!!!!!!)

- November, 2017: Twelfth book

- June, 2018: TEN AFTER CLOSING will be out.

I’ve never written this out before, and I’m sort of sitting here, letting it sink in. Mind=blown.

So, as you can see, between my first words on that first blank page and:
  • First ‘yes’ on anything: just over 4 years
  • First book contract: 5.5 years, 
  • Agent offer: 5.5 years, 7 books, and 9 short stories
  • Contract on TEN AFTER CLOSING: 6.5 years, 9 books, and 9 short stories
  • The release of my book BROKEN CHORDS: 7 years, 11 books, & 9 short stories
  • The release of my book TEN AFTER CLOSING: almost 8 years, 12+ books (I’m not sure what my drafting schedule will be this year)

If someone had told me, the day I started my first book, that it would take more than 5 years to get an agent and almost 8 for my first official novel to come out, I doubt I would have been like, “Yeah. Sign me up for THAT, please.” I would maybe have curled up into a ball and cried. I might never have started. 

BUT, when I think about the ride getting here, it DOESN’T FEEL THAT LONG! 

This has been the most exciting seven years of my life. There were so many milestones along the way. Meeting new people, learning new things, small successes. Yes, there was a lot of stress, waiting, and the challenge of so many rejections. If I put all my rejections into this timeline, we’d have AT LEAST 120 additional bullets. AT LEAST. But still, it’s been an amazing seven years. It’s been more fulfilling, rewarding, and FUN than I would have ever imagined. 

I love writing, and I can’t even picture what my life would be like today if I hadn’t had that conversation with myself about needing a new hobby (or if I picked something other than fiction like, say, knitting. Hmm… Yeah. That would have been different, but I’d probably have a lot of cool sweaters and blankets by now.)

So, no matter where you are on your writing journey, I wish you success, but more than anything, I hope you are having FUN! And remember, the only way to fail, is to stop before you reach your goals. 

You can do it! You can write!

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand. 

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