This week, the Randoms talk about what we were writing before we got published: the good, the bad, and the “thank God it wasn’t published.” Here’s my recounting of the frogs I kissed and which ones turned into princes.
1) Trade magazine articles. This is how I made a living for four-and-a-half years. I wrote about 25,000 words a month, and I edited probably twice to three times as many words. So, with the average YA being about 60,000 words, you’d think I could churn out about five books a year! Sadly, novels aren’t as formulaic as an article about soybeans and heart health.
2) Newspaper articles. For a year, I wrote a column for The Arizona Republic, “Twentysomething and Broke.” I got paid bupkiss, but it let me find my voice and realized that I loved humor in my writing.
3) Poems. My very first bits of writing were typed out on my mom’s typewriter after school in fifth grade (she taught at my elementary school, and I always had at least three hours in her classroom after school where it was either make my own fun or get in trouble with another teacher’s kid who liked electrocuting crickets). I decided I didn’t want to come back to Earth as a vengeful cricket, so I turned these poems into a book and sold them to my classmates.
4) Really bad romance. When I decided to give up the trade magazine job (talk about a soul sucker!), I took a romance writing class at the local community college. It helped push me toward fiction writing–and it also helped me realize that none of my stories ever seemed to have a climatic plot.
5) Amateur sleuth mysteries. Right up until I sold my first YA to Dutton, I was working on an amateur sleuth for two years–I’d revised it twice and sent it out to about 20 agents who gave me some very encouraging rejections. I remember showing it to an online critique group and one guy saying “Can I be your friend when you’re famous?” Talk about great motivation to keep on keeping on! One day when amateur sleuth is wanted again, I’ll dust that baby off.