Wednesday, June 15, 2011

17 WOW Wednesday: Rebekah Purdy on the Writer's Epic Star Wars Journey

Please welcome today's guest blogger, Rebekah Purdy! Rebekah works full time for the court system and--in her free time (Um, six kids, hello? What free time?) writes YA stories. Pretty much any genre within the YA realm is game for her, but her favorites are fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, thrillers, light sci-fi, and some time travel. She is represented by Denise Barone of the Barone Literary Agency. Catch her on her blog, or on Twitter.



The Writer's Epic “Star Wars” Journey
It started a long time ago. In a galaxy far, far away…

Oh. Right. That was Star Wars. Although, there are some definite similarities between my journey to snagging the elusive agent and Luke Skywalker’s (yeah, my total nerdiness is showing—LOL).

In all seriousness, it took me seven years and eight manuscripts before I landed my fabulous agent (Denise Barone) in May. Needless to say, there have been a lot of “OMG, is this really happening” moments. I’m not sure if the shock will ever wear off (smiles).

Okay, now for the epic journey portion of the post. My “voyage” really started seven years ago, when I sent my first finished MS out into the world. With stars in my eyes, I dreamed of book deals, big advances, and seeing my book on the shelves. Guess what? I got requests for fulls. I just knew they’d want to sign me. Um—yeah. Totally didn’t happen that way. The rejections started rolling in.

Of course, I was devastated. I cried a few tears. And I wrote another story. Same process again. I sent the story out. I got requests. I got excited. And well, I got more rejections. What the heck was wrong with me/my writing? Doubt settled in. Then I started to write another book.

For five years, I went through this crazy cycle. Write story. Self-edit. Query. Get requests. Wham! Rejection. Let me tell you, each rejection was like the Dark Side of the Force (had to bring the Star Wars back in) trying to smother me. So, I decided I needed to do something different. This time, I wrote a story, entered contests, and signed up to do a writer’s boot camp through Romance Divas. The feedback I got turned out to be phenomenal. For three months, a mentor helped me work through issues in my story. She pointed out the areas I needed to focus on, but also made sure I knew the things going for me.

After the boot camp, I realized I had to find a critique group. A critique group offered me a chance to sub for one of their members who was gone for the summer. Best experience ever. These ladies gave it to me straight. Sometimes, the feedback was hard to take. But in my gut, I knew they were right. So I finished another story, this time I sent it out and got more requests. And although, it ended in rejection, I got actual feedback from agents. They took the time to let me know why I narrowly missed snagging them. This for me was like finding the hidden plans to the Death Star. Now, I had the target in sight and knew how to destroy it.

At the end of summer, I parted ways with this critique group and six months later found a permanent one. This became my pivotal moment. With ten people in the group, each one had specific/different strengths. And it was here, that my stories finally got perfected. This whole time, my missing ingredient had been “feedback”. Because let’s face it, we miss stuff when we edit for ourselves. Other people can take a look at our work and be able to pinpoint the things we overlook because we’re too involved with the story.

So that brings us to MS # 8, year seven. I started querying my story the last week of March. Right off the bat, I started getting the full requests. But I’d learned by now, not to get my hopes up. Then at the end of April/beginning of May, I came across the name of a new agent. I thought, “Wow, she reps all the genres I write.” So I sent along my query/1st 30 pages. That was May 4th. The next morning, I checked my email to find a note from Denise. She said she loved my premise and voice and wondered if I’d send along the full MS. I sent it out to her about 9:45 am. At 2:45 pm, I got another email from her telling me she loved the story, and wanted to offer me representation. She gave me revision notes and she was SO SO SO nice. At this point other agents still had partials/fulls so I had to wait to give her a definitive answer until the next week.

The waiting, by far, the hardest part (LOL). On May 13th after much consideration/back and forth I signed with Denise Barone. A moment seven years in the making. I’m proof that perseverance pays off. No matter what happened, I never gave up. I kept writing. If you want it bad enough, it will happen.

And now, for the Star Wars journey comparison.

Luke Skywalker: Wanted an adventure. He dreamed of piloting ships, traveling to different galaxies.

Me: I wanted to be a writer. I dreamed of landing an agent, getting published, and sharing my stories with others. My own kind of adventure.

Luke: Decided to go in search of Princess Leia and save her. He fought against the Dark Side, aided the rebellion, and learned how to use the Force.

Me: I decided to go in search of my dreams. I fought against my own Dark Side (rejections, years of writing, and querying). Along the way, I learned how to perfect my writing (or better said my own kind of Force).

Luke: No matter what he was up against, his friends always had his back. Princess Leia, Han Solo, Obi Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, R2 D2, C3PO, they were in the thick of it with him.

Me: I’ve got my fabulous critique group (both old members and new members) who are my Princess Leia, Hans, Chewie (no, I’m not saying you guys are hairy—LOL). They help me do battle with my story. To get it perfect.

Luke: Had to find Yoda in order to take the next step in his training/journey.

Me: I had to find my own Yoda. My agent. Who will help me take the next steps in my journey. So I leave you with this. A quote from Yoda. "No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

17 comments:

  1. Rebekah, your story is so inspiring. I'm an attorney and mom and seeing someone else get to the agent point working and raising a family gives me hope that I can do it too. And that if I perservere, I will write a good enough manuscript. Like you, I've been at the working on manuscript I love the analogy to Star Wars. Very creative.

    I'll have to check out your agent because I write fantasy.

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  2. Natalie,
    Thanks so much. It is hard to juggle everything, but it is possible. I use my lunch hours at work for most of my writing. I leave my time at home for my family. However, that being said, when I have revisions they know I might need to take a few hours at home as well.

    Best of luck to you!!

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  3. Trisha,
    LOL, thanks! If there's ever a way for me to work in a little Star Wars I do it.

    Thanks for dropping in...

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  4. Nice comparisons. I can totally see you now, lightsaber in hand, saving the literary world. Lol. Great blog!

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  5. Thanks Vanessa! Gotta love Star Wars. And yeah, I may or may not have had some crazy lightsaber fights with my kids (winks).

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  6. Great post Rebekah! And your such a rockstar to aspire to, with kids and work and being dedicated to your writing. Your stories are so amazing and funny, I'm excited to see them on the shelves. Congrats, lady! :D And also, loved that you brought your Star Wars in on it. Great post!

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  7. Miranda,
    Aw, thanks lady (blushes). But seriously, I can't take all the credit, because I've had some amazing people critiquing and beta reading for me.

    LOL--And just when you thought you could escape my Star Wars obsession (muwhahahahaha). Can't believe it's been like 25 years since my first Luke Skywalker crush (at 8 years old).

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  8. Loved this! I could tell a similar story (but I've only got 3 kids so I feel like an under-achiever.)

    My stats: 7 years: 3 MS to get an agent but 4 MS to get a publishing deal. You're right, those requests for partials/fulls that go nowhere are the most crushing part of the journey. Still feels like a punch in the gut.

    I also agree that critique groups make ALL the difference!

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  9. Love this story. And I guess having such a demanding day job and 6 kids gave you to perseverance to achieve this! Way to go!!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  10. Anne,
    LOL--well, I don't think 3 kids is underachieving! 7 years must be the magic number. I love hearing about other success stories, it's something that always gave me hope!

    Thanks so much for dropping in!!

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  11. Angela,
    Thanks so much. Actually having 6 kids is a lot of fun, busy, but fun. And it's awesome because I write YA so the older kids actually get to read some of my stuff.

    My 13 year old read one of my stories and is like "Wow, this is actually good, Mom." LOL.

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  12. Aspiring as always, lady!! And I'm glad you don't really think we're hairy (lol.). I so love that you're a Star Wars fan and see your journey similar to that. I'm sure I'm considered quite the sci-fi nerd too with both Star Wars and Star Trek: TNG to my all time favorite fandoms. Although these days, all things Supernatural fill my list. Good luck with everything!!

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  13. Traci,
    Thanks for dropping in. We share our love for everything "nerdy" (LOL)...although, we do like some non-nerdy things too! TVD (picturing Damon as we speak), The Hunger Games, Twilight...and the list could go on and on. I'd like to consider us well rounded (hehehe).

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  14. You rock! So happy that this journey is going so well. The force be with you! :)

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  15. Liz,
    Thanks lady for dropping in (LOL). I'm totally using the Force.

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  16. What an inspirational story. Thanks for sharing!

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