Jan / 15

The Whole Story

By / Jessica Leake / 6

Yesterday I posted how I got my agent, but of course that isn’t the whole story! I went through several years of rejections until I got to this point, and numerous manuscripts. My very first (not counting the awesome unicorn story I wrote out on sheets of a yellow legal pad when I was about ten or eleven) was left uncompleted. I started it in college, and it was a contemporary romance set in Charleston. The next one I completed a few years ago when my husband and I first moved to Birmingham (a YA paranormal romance), and that’s when I really began to learn about the querying process. After countless rejections, I finally clued into the fact that I needed to become a lot more savvy about writing, editing, and querying. I made the classic n00b writer mistake: complete a manuscript and immediately start querying (I know!! *cringe* right??).

So I started researching. I stumbled upon the vast writerly resource that is Miss Snark’s First Victim, and I can’t thank Authoress enough because what I realized I was lacking was the writing community. I couldn’t bring myself to actually meet up with a writing group in person, so I found an online one–Scribophile. It’s probably one of the best online critique forums there is, and it’s great for beginners because, like Authoress’ site, all critiques are encouraged to be constructive not cruel. There I met two writers who really helped me learn the basics about critiquing and showing vs. telling: Claire Gillian & Aimee Laine. Claire is my beta reader to this day!! She is the best at looking at the overall story and finding pacing problems and any plot holes! Thank you for all your help on this one, Claire! 🙂

And of course I have to thank my original beta reader: my mom. It’s a joke in the writing world to say, “but my mom likes it!!” but with my mom, it really does mean something! She’s as good as any other beta reader at picking out what works and what doesn’t for a manuscript, and with this historical in particular, she was good at pointing out things that weren’t historically accurate. For example, apparently, Scotland Yard didn’t even exist at the time my story takes place–they basically had no formal police force! Glad she caught that!! I guarantee she’s crying as she reads this, and that’s what’s so great about her, too: my success is her success. She’s always only wanted the very best for me, and has always been my biggest fan. Love you, Mom!

I owe a lot to my dad, too, for telling me I needed to go to college, have a career, so I could support myself and my writing habit ;). I refuse to let him read my story (maybe when it’s published…) because I’m not sure he can handle the sexytimes scenes. But I know he would love it just because I wrote it. And that makes him the best. Love you, Dad!

Though historical romance is definitely not my husband’s genre, he has always been my biggest support! Not only does he tolerate me staring blankly and supe25-different-kinds-of-kitten-hugs-1-20577-1348859512-13_bigr creepily at him any time I’m trying to think of the right word to use or which direction my story should take, he also is the best at catching grammar mistakes. My work sounds real good ’cause of him ;). He also deserves a big “thank-you” for always keeping our little toddler busy while I’m writing to prevent little fingers from banging out random letters on my keyboard. I’m totally dedicating my first book to you, Sam! I love you! 🙂

My cousin, Kelsey Sandy, has also always been there for me! When we were little, we used to make up stories of the hot actors we were in love with at the time (Pearl Harbor had just come out, so Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck). I still remember one summer when we were both visiting our grandmom in TX, and Kelsey had been writing (by hand!!) a story. She was still in high school, and I was probably just starting college. I remember thinking, oh! We could TOTALLY write books!! Kelsey went on to get her Master’s in Creative Writing–and to teach college courses! She’s AMAZING!! As a critique partner, she is the best at finding places in the manuscript that need MORE–more descriptions, more dialogue, more magic. I also need to thank her for encouraging me to keep the journal entries written by my main character’s mother, which my agent LOVED!! Kelsey is AN INCREDIBLE writer, so it’s only a matter of time until we BOTH have awesome agents!! Love you, cousin!!

But that’s not all!! (;)) So Scribophile was working well for me for awhile, but it’ll only get you so far. It wasn’t until I attended the online writing conference, WriteOnCon, that I met the critique partners my work would be utter crap without: Mandie Baxter, and, through her, Jamie Manning. I could do a whole POST on how much I love these two!! They are full of unconditional, enthusiastic support, but they also have magical critiquing abilities. Mandie the Plot Whisperer has the power to coax amazing twists out of any plot–the more stumped you are by a plot roadblock, the faster she comes up with a solution! Jamie has Eagle Eyes. He can spot the most ridiculous mistake everyone else has looked over a million times, thereby making your manuscript look a whole lot smarter! Both of them are ridiculously talented, and I ADORE their writing!!

 They couldn’t wait to have a conference call the moment I got an offer–to celebrate, to congratulate, to encourage. I LOVE THEM. Like this:Cat Hugging

Mandie is also the one who introduced me to Twitter. Which is where I learned even MORE about agents, writing, and querying. And got even more involved in the writing community. Seriously, writers are the most encouraging, helpful, and supportive community EVER.

Thank you, too, to all the people who read over my manuscript and gave me encouragement! I KNOW I couldn’t have gotten this far without everyone’s help.


Comment (6)
  • Mandie Baxter / January 15, 2013, 1:16 pm  

    Best post EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Man…the tears. 😀 So glad I decided to stalk…er…friend/message you on write on con! Can’t even tell you how ridiculously happy your success story makes me (along w/ your uber hot characters).

    And yes…there are ALL THE TEARS while reading this.

    • Jessica / January 15, 2013, 3:57 pm  

      NO TEARS!!

      I am SO glad you decided to message me, too!! And haha, it was NOT stalkerish at all! You seriously helped my Twitter-challenged self ;).

      Now I can’t wait for YOUR success story!! 🙂

  • Claire Gillian / January 15, 2013, 1:31 pm  

    So proud of you, Jessica!! Talent is easy to beta and you’ve always had it in spades, my dear. Huge congrats!!

    • Jessica / January 15, 2013, 3:59 pm  

      Thank you so much, Claire!! You’ve been SUCH a big help–with all my manuscripts!

  • Jamie Manning / January 15, 2013, 7:37 pm  

    Aw, Jess!! <3 <3 <3 I honestly can't express how happy I am to have "found" you (and MB!)–the two of you mean the world to me, and I'm over-the-moon excited for this new journey you're stepping into. It's gonna be a magical, exciting, terrifying ride, but one of the best you'll ever take. So enjoy it, and I'll be right behind you cheering you on! <3

    • Jessica / January 16, 2013, 11:42 am  

      Jamie!! Thank you so much! I’m so happy to have found you, too! <3