Think of this as a slide show. One of those old-school slide shows that happen during trips to family or friends on a holiday, and they pull out the photos from their latest trip–well, that’s what’s about to happen here so settle in, relax, and enjoy the ride.
It is almost painful to look back at my path to publication. Not because it was literally painful, but part of the path that made it work for me demanded I look ahead. I had to make writing a routine that became a habit that became a way of life, and to do this—I set goals early on: I wanted to be traditionally published, therefore I needed an agent.
This firm commitment to the path began in 2013. Now, before that, I had written half a million words in five years and ten books (some still incomplete). I reached thousands of readers with my website (MyMetaphor) and stories. And I had fans–fanfiction fans.
Yes, I wrote fanfiction. It was my relaxation after a long day of running my marketing and public relations firm. I wrote to clear my head and because I had to tell the story of Spike and Buffy, the way I saw it unfolding, not how it was shown on the small screen.
It was a hobby, a casual hobby until it became much, much more.
I wrote fanfiction in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom. Live Journal was my ‘publisher’, and where I found my writing community.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer writing community was one of the largest and most active in the verse In the early-2000s, that community had online workshops, mentoring programs, contests, and conferences. My first writing conference ever was a BtVS conference in Las Vegas, where the superstar authors of fanfiction were the panelists, and our special guest was Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer, Jane Espenson.
But then, a fanfiction friend suggested I join her at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference in Atlanta. I went, had a great time, and said, well, maybe, I will make the switch from fanfiction writing to original (and oh, by the way, much easier said than done:).
My days writing fanfiction behind me, I was now in the romance writing community. There, I worked on my craft, found critique partners, developed my understanding of story structure, character development, and world-building.
The thing about fanfiction is: I knew the characters in the Buffyverse inside and out. I knew their arcs. I knew their internal and external motivation (although, I didn’t know any of these phrases at the time). I knew this stuff because I had watched and rewatched the episodes so many times it was in my DNA. So much so, that when I started writing original fiction, character development was a huge challenge–what a crazy thing, developing characters from my imagination — alone (insanity!).
Leap forward a few years, and I was writing romantic suspense and entering RWA contests. The contest journey allowed me to share my work and get feedback, two things I was quite accustomed to from my fanfiction writing days.
There are positive things about contests, and some things aren’t so positive. One of the positive things is that you can develop an awareness of your work from the feedback you receive from other writers, and editors and agents. This can be valuable or demoralizing:), but for me, it came in handy.
I met my eventual agent because of the RWA contest circuit. In 2014, I won the Romance Writers of America, now retired contest, the Golden Heart in the Romantic Suspense category. Following this win, I queried more than 50 agents. I received one or two R&Rs (or revise and resubmit) requests, but I wasn’t ready. A contest focuses on submitting 25 pages or 50 pages. But what the readers want, what the agents want, what a publisher wants is a completed book. I didn’t have a full book (and I was still working full-time on my business).
Anyway, after winning the contest in 2014 and querying agents for months and months (with no takers), I continued on my contest path. Two years later, in 2016, I was a Golden Heart finalist again. This time with an early version of WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES, a finalist in the Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance category.
During the RWA conference in San Diego, California, I scheduled a meeting with one of the agents I was very (very) interested in working with, Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates. She carved out 20 minutes and we met in the hotel lobby (by the way, great things can happen in hotel lobbies during writer conferences!). When I sat down and started my spiel about how I was finally in a place where I felt I was ready to submit a revised ready-to-go manuscript, she reached into her briefcase and handed me a contract (before I finished my spiel). Shock! Surprise! Ecstatic! Happy Beyond Belief!
Now, mind you, my goal was to get Nalini to agree to look at my revised manuscript, but she’d seen enough of my work to have made up her mind and just needed to know I was committed (and I couldn’t have been happier).
I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be traditionally published. After running a business for twenty-plus years, I did not want to run a publishing business, which is what an indie author does (and I salute you:)!
I also believe that a traditionally published author runs their own business, too. But you’re in partnership with your publisher, your editor, your agent, and your publicist.
Well, that’s my story for now:)! Enjoy the photos!
Denny S. Bryce
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