So It Begins

A peek at my organizational process.

I won’t lie: In from the Cold has lived a very charmed life. Not only is it the first novel I’ve ever written, but it was accepted by the very first publisher I sent it to–as an unsolicited manuscript no less. This isn’t how things are normally done, or so says every piece of writing advice I’ve ever read. (And I’ve read a lot.) A part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. At some point, I keep telling myself, this will get difficult. I had an embarrassing moment a few months ago when, upon learning I’d sold a novel, a man asked how many rejection notices I’d accumulated in my journey to publication; when I told him none, he seemed almost disappointed.

That’s the trope, isn’t it? The struggling author faced with no after no after no until some kind soul finally gives their story a chance at an audience. I grew up on a steady diet of Harry Potter; I know Rowling’s mythology as well as I know Harry’s.

Of course, there are factors that account for my relatively easy go of it. I wrote Cold with a publisher in mind, for one, and while I wasn’t sure if the finished product still met what they were looking for, I took a chance and submitted it regardless. (In the end, it was accepted by a separate, boutique imprint under the publisher’s umbrella, where it was a better fit.) It also didn’t hurt that Cold has somewhat niche subject matter, though I like to think it has the ability to reach a wider audience. Spies, after all, have always captured the public’s imagination. So what if these ones happen to be gay? Many real spies were (and are, surely). As an avid reader of espionage history, it always struck me how much more complicated the relationships of intelligence officers were compared to their fictional counterparts. But that’s a topic for another post entirely.

I think what helped me most is that I did my homework: I read through pages of editorial policies, I checked out the Chicago Manual of Style from the library, I read various takes on how best to write a story summary, I formatted my manuscript to the publisher’s exact specifications, and so on and so on. Somewhere in there, I also happened to write a novel I’m pretty proud of.

Formal editing has yet to commence, though I’m doing one last polish beforehand. It’s been months since I last visited this story, and I’m pleased to find I still like it. I hope that remains true in the weeks to come. Perhaps the strangest part of this whole process has been not knowing, exactly, who has read it. The story already isn’t quite mine, which is equal parts terrifying and thrilling. Regardless of how In from the Cold is received by others, however, simply bringing it to life has brought me a lot of joy.

And whether or not things grow more difficult from here, that joy in itself will make anything worth it.


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