Last year, on the eve of my 33rd birthday, I filled 3 pages of my journal despairing over whether I should just give up on this whole writing thing
This year, on the eve of my 34th, I’m headed to the bank to deposit the first advance check from my book deal
— Layne Fargo (@LayneFargo) May 22, 2018
Here’s what really happened in the whirlwind year between those two birthdays:
First of all, I should say that I journal every day (I’ve been doing the Julia Cameron Morning Pages thing faithfully for several years now), but the specific journal entry I reference in that tweet was triggered by a comment from my partner. In the midst of my latest am I just wasting my time with this writing shit or what?? rant, he turned to me and said, “You know, at some point you’re just going to have to get out of your own way.”
In the moment, I could have murdered him. But he was right. I was getting in my own way, spending time angsting about writing instead of just, you know, writing. (Something I struggle with to this day, if I’m being honest.) I resolved to get my manuscript whipped into shape in time to submit it to the Pitch Wars mentoring program in August 2017. Plenty of time, right?
Sure, unless you’re like me and decide to make things hard on yourself by adding a second point of view to the book about a month and a half out from the submission window. And a few weeks after that, when I’d already written ~30k of material in my new POV character’s voice, I deleted her from the book entirely and started writing the second POV from a completely different character, who’d been a background player before. I can’t imagine the book any other way now, but at the time I felt like I was losing my grip. At one point I literally flipped a coin to decide which POV character to go with.
In the lead-up to Pitch Wars, I set a grueling schedule, writing early in the morning and late into the night on weekdays, all day on weekends. My partner gave me the space and time I needed, taking over my portion of the housework and making me espresso when my energy flagged (yes, I know I don’t deserve him). Still, there were so many times I teetered on the razor’s edge of quitting. The worst time was during the last week before Pitch Wars submissions opened, when I lost a whole writing day and night to an emergency at my day job. The next morning, instead of getting up early to write, I lay in bed staring at the wall in an exhausted daze, tears running onto my pillow, thinking: this is it, I’ll never make it, I might as well give up now.
And then, I’m still not entirely sure how, I forced myself to get up and guzzle coffee and get back to my manuscript. When Nina Laurin picked me to be her Pitch Wars mentee, it made my summer of revision and struggle (and all the years of rejections and false starts before that) feel entirely worth it. With her help, I spent the next few months revising, and by the end of it I finally had a manuscript I was proud of, one that resembled the idea I’d had in my head.
In the Pitch Wars agent round in November 2017, I got requests from a lot of great agents, but there were a few others I had my eye on who didn’t participate in Pitch Wars. At the top of that list was Sharon Pelletier. I queried her the minute the agent round ended, and ten days later, on Friday November 17th, she requested the full. Then on Sunday the 19th, I got another email from her: she was loving the manuscript (she actually emailed me before she’d gotten to the end!) and wanted to schedule a call. I remember standing in the doorway of my office, leaning against the doorframe because my knees were weak, holding up my phone screen for my partner to see, and the huge grin that spread across his face when he read her email.
I ended up getting a couple more offers once I nudged all the agents from Pitch Wars, but I think I knew all along that Sharon was the one for me. The best advice I’ve gotten about dealing with the Very Good Problem of multiple agent offers is: try to write an email telling each person why you’re turning them down. The one you can’t bring yourself to write? That’s the person you should choose.
Over the next two months, Sharon and I went through several more rounds of revision. In addition to being a fabulous agent, Sharon is an insightful and merciless editor – which is ideal for me! I’m incredibly nitpicky, but it’s hard to see your own writing clearly after you’ve been working on it for so long, so it’s great to have someone you trust to pick all those nits for you.
We went on submission in early February of this year, and I settled in for what I assumed would be long months of nail-biting and stress-snacking. But within a few weeks, we had editor interest. I ended up having calls with several editors and getting two offers, with another in the works at the time I accepted my deal with Kate Dresser at Gallery Books.
Sometimes I can’t believe that at this time last year, I was just getting started with Pitch Wars revisions, and now I have an agent, a book deal, and I’m a Pitch Wars mentor myself. So much can change in 365 days (or 525,600 minutes). I don’t know where I’ll be by the time my 35th birthday rolls around, but I’m excited to find out!