To start this story, we’re first going to go back to eleven years and half my life ago. I was a precocious kid and I’d always loved reading, so I decided I was going to write a book. And I did. It was called The Sills and the Mystery of the Museum.
Some back info: I’m a quadruplet so I have three brothers the same age as me. Anyway, myself and my brothers were the stars of this novel—particularly one of them, who I liked a bit more at the time. He was a conflicted anti-hero, and I was the star who saved the day. We were super geniuses and we built a laboratory under our little brother’s room that no one knew about. Yeah. I know.
For those of you curious, here’s a photo of me and my brothers:
So anyway, I wrote that book—all 27,000 words of it—and I decided I was going to get it published, but this was eleven years ago and I didn’t have the internet and no one I knew wrote, so my query letter—direct to publishing houses—said: “It’d be cool if you published this before my twelfth birthday.” Did I mention it was handwritten in two copy-books because I didn’t have a computer?
That was the first of the many query letters I sent in my teen years—all for terrible, awful novels written by a precocious 12-15-year-old who had no idea what she was doing.
Tens of rejections followed, and I grew up and got sense and took a break from querying because with age came the yawning realisation that my books were a bit rubbish. They had potential and they were all ‘good for my age’, but good for my age wouldn’t get me published.
Around about age seventeen, I discovered literary agents and I decided I wanted one. Since then I’ve written a bunch of books, each of which was a step closer. Rejections became partials, partials became fulls, and fulls became…rejections. Nearly wasn’t close enough.
In the summer before I turned twenty-one, I had this weird idea for a novel about a kid called Nick who combats his troubled past by fighting crime in full-on superhero gear. This was going to be a novel about growing up and moving on and forgiving your past and your demons in small-town Ireland: a Contemporary YA that was weird and strange, dark but ultimately hopeful. I spent two weeks writing Citizens of Optimism—I think I wrote about 6,000 words of it on my 21st birthday, because that’s just how cool I am.
The story from there is pretty self-explanatory. I sent it to CPs and Betas. Early criticism was harsh, but completely true. At one point, I restructured the whole thing. Fast forward maybe seven months and six drafts to this May and it was as finished as I could think to make it. So came the submission process. We’re all familiar with the submission process, so I’ll jump straight to the hard facts:
Queries drafted: 9.
Contests entered: 1. QueryKombat. I was knocked out early on, but the various comments/opinions really helped to make the query stronger.
Queries sent: 14.
Agents: 1. Laura Zats, of Red Sofa Literary. I’m not one for indulging in superlatives, so instead I’ll say you know when you sometimes just get a feeling about someone and you think, “this could work?” That was how I knew.
So now here I am, with an agent, and a novel, and another novel in-the-works that I’m really, truly hopeful about. I am my own worst critic, and I opened Citizens of Optimism for the first time since May a couple of days ago, and I had this unrelenting want to cut it all up and make it better.
I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the last year—in fact, I’d say my 21st year was the year I learned to write, and now I have this uncertain future and this uncertain novel , and I guess it’s time to see what happens next?
And it’s terrifying. Everything about this is terrifying. I’m so private about my writing—always have been—and I have a tendency to flip-flop from self-belief to gutting self-doubt in ten seconds flat, so subbing will be…interesting. I’m trying to be better—trying to be more open about my writing, which is half the reason I’m writing this. Still: it’s terrifying!
I don’t know what happens next, but as much as it’s terrifying, it’s breathlessly, achingly exciting.