So. Here we are.
People say a lot of things, write a lot of things and publish a lot of things about following their dreams, or dreams coming true, and today, I have my own twist:
My fucking dreams came true. And I’m going to tell you how.
Not to get too longwinded, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer. With a fiction writing degree in hand from Columbia, I quickly used it to…write nonfiction. I navigated writing for blogs and magazines, freelancing my face off, even acting as a journalist on death row, hopping over to Switzerland to ghostwrite a book about Swiss chocolate, and then? I landed several small book deals for nonfiction books.
Four, to be exact.
Things were happening, right? I was a writer! I was writing about health and wellness, which I love! I was getting paid to write!
Well, yes and no. I was writing, but I wasn’t a writer.
And there’s definitely a difference. I was paid to research and source material and write from a place of fact, not imagination. I got paid by the word, by the book, on commission, and was fit into a box…not expanding into the author I knew I could become.
We all have dreams. Even if your dream is dreaming about having a dream. But we whine and we wonder and we worry about money or we can’t seem to figure out how to get there, or how to get started, so we don’t even try. We’ll get to it someday, but we just need a steady income while we figure it out. (Which I agree with mostly, because it takes the pressure off.)
I can’t tell you how many journals I’ve filled on just this very subject: Should I quit everything and just write a novel?
And finally, one day, that’s exactly what I did.
Last year, I was working three jobs. Three! I was the co-owner of a gym, I was the content manager for a corporate company in Dallas where I spent my days on Skype calls, traveled twice per month to sit in meetings, and created more Power Point presentations than I care to share. On top of that, I also took on a brief senior editorial role for a Chicago magazine. And I was freelancing. To say life was hectic is an understatement.
I missed taking my daughter to school in the mornings. I missed picking her up in the afternoons and being free to take her to the park. I missed that giant thing in the sky I think they call the sun. I missed having dinner with her and my husband because I was too busy teaching classes or on a deadline or on another conference call that had nothing to do with my real life.
But this is the life I chose, because I said I wanted money. I needed money.
And for the first time in my life, I was making fabulous money. I was supporting my family, and I didn’t have to worry about anything!
Except my happiness, my stress levels, my health, my daughter, my relationship and my time.
One day, I had an idea for a book, and I started jotting things down. Then, on one of my Dallas business trips, I witnessed something that would become the entire premise for my novel, THE LONELY GIRLS.
If it wasn’t for the corporate job or the amazing female entrepreneur who got me that job or all the writing before that, I wouldn’t have gotten that singular idea that shaped an entire story.
So, I made a decision right then and there in that airport: I decided to quit everything.
I quit the gym, which was hard, because wellness has been a part of my life for the past fifteen years, but personal training is a hard gig with kids, and I would never regret spending time with my child. I quit the senior editorial gig. I had two months left on my corporate contract, which meant two more months of steady income, and then I would step into the financial black hole known as how the fuck do I make money now?
When I quit the first two, something miraculous happened: My husband, a very talented graphic designer who had struggled to find work since moving to Nashville, got offered a senior UX design job. And he didn’t even apply for it.
So with all this magic happening, I gave myself an impossible deadline of writing this book in two months.
I wrote it in one.
I wrote my entire novel in four weeks, because I had been thinking about writing my novel for probably fifteen years. I just didn’t have the right story yet.
People might think it’s impossible to write a novel in a month, or that it won’t be very good, or that you’re not a legitimate writer unless you toil away for years on a story, shaping and reshaping every line until it resembles something entirely different than where you began. And I’m guilty of thinking that as well. I went to school for creative writing, where writers spent years crafting characters and the arc of a story.
So, who did I think I was? After abandoning fiction for over a decade, how did I think I could write a novel, and that fast?
But I didn’t write this story. This story wrote me.
I have never done something in those four weeks that was more on purpose than writing this book. It was like an out of body experience, which often happens when you are doing the thing you are meant to do. I didn’t worry about the writing or how it sounded or if it was literary enough (it’s contemporary women’s suspense). I was unselfconscious in crafting this story. I let it unfold organically, down to the last detail.
I immediately found a writer’s group, something I had not been a part of since college, thanks to meeting another writer at the gym I co-owned on my very last day! I submitted the novel to a few agents, and on a random day in a Barnes & Noble, I picked up a Writer’s Digest, which was all about literary agents, and I queried ONE, and that particular agent loved the book as much as I did.
She and I took a month to revise the book and then sent it on its merry way. And do you know what? For the first time in my entire life, I didn’t doubt or second-guess what I was doing or how it would all end up.
I knew the book would be published, just like I knew I would get an agent. I knew an editor would buy it. And I knew the publisher would be one of my top choices.
How did I know? Because it’s what I was always supposed to be, because the time was finally right, because I was actually wrapped up in the journey and not the final destination, because I believed in myself, for the very first time, 1000 percent.
I visualized getting the agent, and I got her. I visualized the call she would make when we got an offer on the book, and when she did call, she said, almost word for word, what I had imagined her to say.
I wrote down what my offer would be, from the publisher it would be from, before we got the offer, and it came true.
For the first time in my entire life, I let myself imagine the end result. I celebrated getting the agent before I got her. I celebrated getting the book deal before I got the book deal. I would practice bidding wars in my car, and I would scream with excitement when I got the good news. I let myself revel in that excitement.
I went beyond that, to when I became a New York Times Bestseller (it’s going to happen) and realizing that this first book?
This would be the launching point for my career, not the end result.
And then I realized. All the millions of words I’ve written in my life – all the nonfiction books, the proposals, the letters, the emails, the bios, the resumes, the ghostwriting, the blogs, the articles – that was to get to this place. Here.
The entire time, this life had been available to me. And I finally got focused enough and brave enough to step into it.
So, my agent called me. The book got an offer. Then it got anther offer. Then it got a counter offer. And then another counter offer. Then it went to a book auction and came back with two more counter offers and resulted in a five-figure advance and a two-book deal with one of the top five publishers in the country, St. Martin’s Press.
My point being? This visualization shit works, ya’ll. It’s real.
So, I’m going to take you step-by-step how I did it. How I wrote the book in a month, how to query, how to edit, how I landed an agent, how I got the publishing deal, what my writing process is like, what my experience with a huge publisher will be like over these next 12 months until the book hits the bookshelves and what happens after.
I will share my dreams (they’re big, so get ready) and take you through the journey of getting there.
Whether you want to write a book or not, we can all take something from getting what we want, from taking your hands out of everything and putting them onto the one thing you want. (And I’ve quickly discovered that everyone has a book idea. Who cares if you’re not a writer? Start writing!)
You have to want it – whatever it is for you – so much that it’s all you can think about. And I finally let myself do that, have that, achieve that, feel that.
And now I’m here. And I couldn’t be more grateful.
Next up on the blog? How to write a book if you’ve got an idea but have no idea where to start.
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