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  • How I Found My Way to She Writes Press, Naturally - Part One: The Big Baby
How I Found My Way to She Writes Press, Naturally - Part One: The Big Baby
Written by
Michelle Cox
May 2015
Written by
Michelle Cox
May 2015

            Sometime in 2013, I wrote my first novel.  Originally, I began it not because I had a burning story to tell the world or because of some inspiring experience I had had, but because I found myself, for one reason or another, with a lot of extra time on my hands (no, I wasn’t in prison) and because it seemed like an admirable challenge.  I had always suspected I might write a novel and now seemed to be my chance, various forces of the universe dropping hints and nudging me towards this place which I had never felt quite qualified to enter before now. 

            It turns out that writing the novel, as arduous as it is, isn’t half as hard as getting it published, or, as I discovered, even read by any of the powers that be.  It wasn’t until after I proudly typed the words, “The End” did the real work begin.  Not knowing anything about the publishing world, I began doing a bit of research and disappointedly realized that it wasn’t as easy as plopping your manuscript into an envelope and dashing it off to some publisher like something out of a 1940’s movie. 

            I balked at the idea of now having to secure an agent, write a synopsis, a query letter and perhaps even an outline and nearly gave up there, already exhausted from having written the novel itself.  Eventually, however, after a good shaking, I scolded myself for being faint of heart.  After all, I’d just written a novel, for God’s sake! Surely I could get it together enough to write a skimpy synopsis and a query!   

            A bit resentfully, then, I began researching agents and naturally turned to the Guide to Literary Agents.  It was somewhere in that process that a giant cloud then came to hover over my work, threatening to destroy the whole project altogether…the cloud being the shocking discovery that most agents were looking for manuscripts with 80 to 120,000 words.  The big baby that I had given birth to and which I was now awkwardly cradling, weighed in at a whopping 224,000 words!  A bit too chubby perhaps, I worried, nervously drumming my fingers against my lips. 

            My ignorance of the publishing world, however, pushed me into a state of denial, and I stubbornly chose to naively believe that somewhere out there some agent would simply love this story and pick it up anyway.  After all, The Goldfinch had recently come out, and I pointed to Outlander as well - huge, break-the-shelf novels!  If they existed in the world, why couldn’t mine?  Ah, poor me.  I look back on those days now with pity for my as-of-yet impenetrable idealism. 

            Ignoring my baby’s weight problem, I determinedly set about sending off queries and first pages to over 200 agents in the course of a couple of months.  Depressingly, not one was interested.  As a way to masochistically encourage myself, I read horror stories about how Joseph Conrad kept a whole book of rejections, now charmingly on display in his house for tourists to peruse; how Agatha Christie tried for five years to get published; and I read, not with any real pity, actually, how JK Rowling had had an astonishing 12 rejections (12?  Try 200!) before she landed a deal. 

            Confused, I wasn’t sure what to do next.  I had exhausted the Guide to Literary Agents; there didn’t seem to be anyone else to send it to.  I then began to have delusional, paranoid thoughts in which I imagined a group of agents in New York all out to lunch (they probably all know each other, I reasoned) where I somehow come up as the butt of their joke (as if they have nothing else to think about): “Hey did you get the Michelle Cox query?” one would ask.  “Oh, that thing?  Yeah, we tossed it.”  “So did we,” another would chuckle.  “Can you imagine?  How ridiculous!  224,000 words!  Who does she think she is?  JK Rowling?” the first one would say as she tossed back a martini.  I realized then that I had to get a grip on reality.  Of course they wouldn’t be drinking martinis, it would be some sort of soy latte or frappe, or whatever they’re called these days. 

            Nonetheless, it slowly became apparent to me that I was going to have to go back to the drawing board.  I’d show them! I steamed.  I’ll write something for the market!  Something short and catchy and well, you know, more enticing.  More sex!  More violence!  Well, maybe not, but something more marketable, anyway.  So I went back to a stash of stories I had kept from my days as a social worker in a nursing home, dug out a few, put them together into a historical mystery, and began to weave together a whole new cast of characters to nurture or kill off as necessary, all the while still going back every so often to my first big, chubby baby, whispering to it that it’s time would someday come...  

Read part two of Michelle's story here>

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