How The **** Did This Happen? / by Dave Connis

I've got some big news, however, as all click bait does, I'm saving it for later because I've had quite a few people ask me the story of my "writing career." So, I tied my big news into a basic timeline of my writerly life to quell those curious enough to not skip to the end. 

-An Honest Timeline of Misery, Angst, and Victory -

1999: I wrote my first story simply because I wanted to be able to kiss Rogue from the X-Men. I put it on a floppy disk. My mom found it and edited it for me thinking she was being nice. I was so embarrassed that I took a break from writing Clive Cussler-ish romantic fan fiction for forever.

2001: I started a novel about Jet Ski racers on my dad's new fangled laptop...then I spilled chocolate milk on it and fried the motherboard. No more Jet Ski racers. 

2001 -2005: Video games, bro.

2007, Fall: I attempted my first novel--titled Claritica--while in college. Hahahahaha. I wrote fifty pages and then decided that novel writing was second to having my ass kicked by liberal arts academics. I threw the file in an external hard drive, wept, then studied all night for a test I probably got a C on.

2008, Christmas Break: I went back to Claritica and added another fifty pages, solemnly swearing that I would finish it even when I went back to college. Hahahaha.

2009 - May of 2011: From hence known as The Age of Darkness.

2011, August: I remembered I used to do things with words that had nothing to do with impressing professors. I started a Dystopian book called Underwater instead of helping my new wife with something she'd asked me to help with.

2012, February: I finished Underwater and by golly wasn't it the best thing ever. It was so unprecedented that everyone would want to read it and see how good it was. Everyone would be in awe of how I could write one book and break into the literary world with the pomp and circumstance of someone who'd say in an interview, "It just came to me." I suddenly wanted this thing. This writer thing. I wanted to be a published author.

2012, Last week of February: I looked up what an agent was and started querying a few minutes after.

2012, March:  Over thirty stone cold rejections. The book was absolutely horrible, and I hadn't done any research on how to write a query letter, so I deserved every single one. At the time, however, it felt like my life was over. With the rejection fresh and painful, I decided I'd just do a major rewrite and re-query it.

2012, November: While waiting for a critique partner to get back to me about the latest draft of Underwater, I wrote a reverse MG zombie novel about an outbreak of humanity. It was a fun break, but by golly I was going to get Underwater published. Also, I left construction and secured a job that, loosely, allowed me to write part-time. I buckled in and put together a three month Creative Writing independent study that included taking an online grammar refresher course from LSU--that I almost finished.

2013, April-May: Again, while waiting for a CP to get the dystopian back to me, I wrote two different YA books in two different genres. It was so refreshing, but by golly I was going to get Underwater published. 

2013, August: After a few promising pitches turned to rejection at Writeoncon, I had the crushing realization that no one wanted Dystopian anymore. I went all Toby Maguire in the third Spider Man and swore I'd never write again. A week later I decided use the one month I had before my first SCBWI conference to edit the MG zombie novel so I could pitch it.

2013, September: I was on my way to my first SCBWI Conference. I was excited, however I couldn't afford my  new membership, signing up for the conference, and paying for a room, so...I had to sleep in my car in the conference center parking lot. Once I got there, something happened to me that I never I met a bunch of great writers who've been severely influential to my career with their encouragement and editorial eyes.

2013, Post-Conference: One of the agents at the conference requested a full of my zombie novel. The first time an MS of mine had been requested. I partied like I'd just won a sporting event.

2013, October - May 2014:  SWEET MERCY, AGENT MAN...EIGHT MONTHS? EIGHT MONTHS?! Fine...I'll just write four other books, and develop my craft and actually take in advice from other writers that will severely improve my writing.

2014, January:  I told my wife that 2014 would be the last year I wrote on a part-time basis. We needed to move on from the place we were. I went into the year feeling the pressure of all my work not getting me anywhere close towards a writing career. Seems over-the-top, no? I really did feel like I had the perfect opportunity to get somewhere while I could put so much time to writing. It felt like as soon as I moved on from that, I'd lose momentum and realize in 15 years that I'd never accomplished my dream--probably not true, but it's still what I felt.

2014, Mid-January: I started writing my first YA Contemporary, The Temptation of Adam. It's the first book I wrote that felt strong. That felt complete. Like I semi-knew what I was doing.

2014, May: I finally heard back from the agent who had the full of my MG zombie novel. He gave me a one paragraph, "thanks, bruh, but nope." So, I finished TOA and started querying. Surprisingly, I got 8 full requests on it. I promptly freaked the **** out. 

2014, June:  I edited one of the books I'd written in 2013 with the goal of getting it ready for PitchWars at the end of August, however, it was taking forever to get through, so in the middle of July, I realized there was no way I'd have the MS ready for PitchWars. I really wanted to submit something because I had a few friends as mentors. So, my response, of course, was to write a new book to submit to a month. Makes sense, right? But I did it. I worked non-stop, slamming out an idea I'd had a few months before. The week before PitchWars, I finished the first draft of the MS, a MG shenanigans book called The Hole Behind The Organ. Three long days later I finished the second draft. Two long days after that I finished the third draft. One long day after that, I finished the fourth and entered the contest. My book made a little buzz among the mentors, but it, ultimately, wasn't picked.

2014, July: I queried an editor at Sky Pony Press who's MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) lined up with TOA. She requested a full. At the end of July, she said that, though it had potential, it wasn't up to snuff. She sent me things she wanted to see fixed and told me she'd love to read it again if I decided to revisit the manuscript. This, for all of my non-writer friends and family, is called a "Revise and Resubmit," aka, an R & R.

2014, August: Though I had some good critiques on TOA I decided to take a rest from editing it, and let the fulls I'd put in the hands of agents do their thing. Instead, I reworked The Hole Behind The Organ according to the critiques I got from some of the PitchWars mentors.

2014, September: After two or so edits on THBTO, I took a subdued query approach and only queried it to one agent that I really liked. She asked for more pages. Yesssssss. But, at that time every agent that had requested TOA had said no, however, they were all very encouraging to me, and most told me that I had the chops to make it. Still. It sucked.

2014, September - October: To cope with the rejections for TOA, I started working on it again, making the revisions that the editor from Sky Pony suggested in July.

2014, November - December: The agent with THBTO offered me an R & R while I was working on the R & R for TOA. I took a deep breath and switched gears, working on THBTO because it seemed more promising/immanent. I sent it off, after putting a solid 75+ hours into its rewrite. I sent it back to her at the end of November, and went back to editing TOA.

2015, January:  2014 hath ended. My time of writing part-time was coming to a close because the place I'd been employed was closing due to the property being re-purposed and my job wasn't going to be necessary any more. It felt like my time of writing was ending. I'd assumed when I took the job a few years before that it would end with at least me having an agent, but I had nothing but a massive trophy case of rejections. Then, in a soul crushing blow, the THBTO R & R was rejected. With more angst than a teenager, I submitted an R & R of TOA I was very proud of to the Sky Pony editor.

2015, February: My wife and I began looking for new places to live. I applied to millions of jobs. While waiting on literally most of the major things that make up your life, (work, living place) I started writing another YA Contemporary to deal with the stress, Suggested Reading.

2015, March - May: I finished, and then began editing Suggested Reading, knowing that it was the last book I'd write in that space.

2015, May: I began querying Suggested Reading (I'd been told that we needed to be out of tour house May 29th.) Feeling frustrated that all the hours I'd worked in the last two years of busting my literary ass for nothing, I threw up my hands and said, "alright, I'm done writing until my wife and I get into a more stable place." I felt that I'd put a lot of time and effort into creating a writing career and, honestly, I needed to focus on other things. We bought a house, and in the middle of refinishing the kitchen cabinets, I queried an agent named Eric Smith. On May 13th, he said, "let's talk." I cried. On May 14th, he offered me representation, and just like that...I had an agent. Then, the next day, the editor from Sky Pony who had the full of TOA made an offer on it. 

2015, June - August: Shock. Business. Moving. New jobs. Ironically, I didn't write a single word.

2015, August: I signed my first publishing contract as an agented writer.

Today (Finally, the big news): I can finally announce that my debut book, The Temptation of Adam, has been acquired by Nicole Frail at Sky Pony Press and will come out Fall of 2017. (Official announcement below.)

What are the morals of this timeline? What did I learn in all of this? What would me now say to me in August 2011? How many rejections did I actually get? Yes, I have those numbers. These are all good topics...for later. I'll write them later. The one thing I do want to say now is

Don't. Give. Up.