My Writing Journey: Part One

Preface: After squeeing with me about getting an agent, my critique partner, Jeannie Campbell, said, “You better be writing all this down.” So during my blogging hiatus, I wrote a couple posts that ended up being a journal of sorts. If you’re interested in my writing journey, here it is:

There was a point when I started writing: the beginning.

There was a point when my agent offered representation: the first doorway.

All you Plot and Structure fans out there know what I’m talking about. The first doorway – something Mr. Bell refers to as the point of no return. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?

I look at this time period, from penning my first novel to acquiring representation, as the first act of my writing story.

My first act lasted about three and a half years. Sure, I’ve had a love affair with writing since third grade, but my inciting event didn’t occur until the summer of 2006 when I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya and came home with a story bursting inside me.

Writing that first story was like falling in love. I knew next to nothing of what I was doing. I just wrote. All day. Sometimes late into the night. It was romantic and heady and exhilarating and by the end of the summer, I had my first novel. I printed it out. My husband took a picture of me hugging the thick stack of pages. And I was convinced I’d be the next Francine Rivers (okay, that’s a gross exaggeration, but still, I was ignorantly blissful). I bought Sally Stuart’s market guide, wondered, “What in the heck is a query?”, and started submitting. Not to agents. To publishers.

I got one bite. A publishing house requested the full. More than a little giddy, I sent it off, convinced this was it. They’d read my story, love it just as much as my mom, and I’d be on a shelf by next spring. Imagine my shock when not more than two weeks after sending it, I came home from my summer job and saw my glorious manuscript sitting in the mailbox with a very polite thanks, but no thanks.

My husband and I scratched our heads. How could they pass this up? The answer eluded me. So I set aside my disappointment and pounded out the first fifty pages of what would be my second novel. Then fall semester started. Visions of being a teacher consumed me. As High as the Heavens went on a shelf, occasionally resurrected for a curious, interested reader friend, and those first fifty pages of novel number two sat forgotten on my hardrive. For two years.

Sure, I thought about writing. All sorts of ideas would float inside my brain. Sometimes I’d even open up Microsoft Word and play around. But mostly, life had its way. I graduated from college (go Badgers!), landed a fifth grade teaching job in my hometown, moved back to Iowa with hubby and Bubba. Spent the summer preparing to be the best fifth grade teacher EVER! Talk about enthusiasm – I went so far as to construct a time machine out of a large refrigerator box, copious amounts of tin foil, and a flashing red police light. I think my coworkers thought I was nuts, but you should have seen how round my students’ eyes got that first day they walked into my classroom. I got pregnant in February of 2008. Finished my first year of teaching. Opened up that 50-paged forgotten novel, and finished it in a month and a half.

My second novel. Validation that I had more than one story inside me. Instead of querying more publishing houses, I submitted the first fifteen pages to a professional critiquing service – the first time I’d subjected myself to objective feedback. And thus, I entered what I refer to as, “The Learning Time.”

I look forward to sharing this part of my journey in Wednesday’s post. Until then…

Questions to Ponder: How did your writing journey start? What was the inciting event that hurled you into this crazy story?removetweetmeme

38 thoughts on “My Writing Journey: Part One

  1. […] reached it without going to a writing conference. To read my journey up to this point, check out My Writing Journey: Part One, and My Writing Journey: Part […]

  2. […] Check out my writing journey: part one. […]

  3. Natalie

    What a fun story!!! It's amazing how clueless we all are when we start. I started writing because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it if I tried. I took me a year and a half to finish my first manuscript. I queried 2 agents and then trunked it and started working on my second. That was a year ago– I finished it in August. I signed with my agent in September and am now working on novel #3. It's been fun. πŸ™‚ Can't wait to read the rest of your journey.

  4. Krista Phillips

    I LOVE reading your story Katie! You totally inspire me!!!

    Enticing event was receiving a misguided package in the mail… that was an authors edits from their publisher. God pointed and said, "Write"

    And I wrote… and He said it was crappy.

    Then GOd pointed at what I'd written and said, "Edit"

    And I edited… and He said it was a little better.

    Then God pointed and said, "edit some more, and actually figure out what you're doing this time, okay?"

    And I joined ACFW and actually learned how to do it… and I edited, and he smiled and said, "Better."

    Then he pointed to a new idea and said, "Write"

    And I wrote… and he winked at me and said, "edit"

    And here I am. 2 agent requests for fulls, no responses, and I edit and write.

    Waiting, waiting waiting.

    Obeying, Obeying, Obeying.

  5. Jeannie Campbell, LMFT

    i'm STILL squealing! and very glad to learn you take your crit partner's advice to heart. blog readers = learn from this woman. πŸ™‚

    The Character Therapist

  6. Terri Tiffany

    You are amazing! You have accomplished so much with a fulltime job and a baby! WOW! Slap my head when and if I whine I have no time to get my work done!

  7. Robyn Campbell

    Super post, Katie. I love reading how other writers got into this CRAZY ride we're all on.

    I started from home-schooling my kids. I realized how much I loved becoming other people through my stories. Alas, still no agent. I haven't queried much. Only a couple. But in December 2009, I begin the agonizing process. "I will query until an agent accepts moi," is my mantra. YIKES! Even typing the word query is nerve racking. Can't wait for Wednesdays post. πŸ™‚ Thank you for doing this. It' fun to read.

  8. Gwen Stewart

    What an awesome post, Katie. I love it.

    I started writing in late December/January, wrote three books in about five months (insanity) and was agented by August. Yeah, that was a fast ride. Then–complete stall. I'm still kinda stalled, trying to breathe life into the story I've now been working on for about a year. Grrrr….

    Have a great evening!

  9. Katie Ganshert

    Wow! I loved coming home, opening up my computer (after hugging and cuddling with my son, of course) and reading all these comments! It's so fun to be able to read about your journies! Some of us started the same, some of us very differently. It's amazing how God brings us all along on our own path.

    Thanks for sharing! I enjoy getting to know you all better!

  10. ~Ellie Kings~

    Katie, you give me hope! I have so many stories inside me just waiting to jump on paper. Reading journeys such as yours motivate me to keep going in spite of setbacks.

  11. ElanaJ

    Great story! I love how you call it the first act. It feels so much like that. Like it's intermission and there will be more exciting things to come. Can't wait to read it here!

  12. Beth

    Katie, I must've been under a rock somewhere, because I have totally missed your blog for TOO LONG! Holy cow, you got THE CALL! Huge congratulations and SQUEEEEEE! You deserve every good thing that comes your way. So excited to read all about your journey. Hugs!!!

  13. T. Anne

    I'm so enjoying reading about your journey! I hope you keep the posts coming far into the next year. My story? I wrote my heart out ten plus years ago and got two agents offering to rep me, I chose the wrong one. AS with any severe burn I pulled away for a good long while then got back into the swing of things. I'm curious to see what direction the Lord leads me. I'm comforted by his word and his promises. XOXO

  14. Diane

    Great story about keeping one foot in front of the other and keeping on. God's timing is perfect and that is why it's all happening now. :O)

    Hope to see you over at my new blog home

  15. Patti

    Like you I've always wanted to write, but it wasn't until after I read my family history that I got the idea.

  16. Caroline Starr Rose

    This reminds me a lot of my own experience, though I had eleven and a half years of writing before any agent interest (and seven years of teaching in between).

    One of my (now) funniest starting out mistakes was submitting any ol' three chapters for my first partial request. A prompt form rejection came days later. So glad that first novel never went anywhere!

  17. Cindy

    Katie, thanks for sharing your story with us. It's always so encouraging to hear the journey other authors have taken.

    I started writing as a young teenager but didn't try for an agent or publication until after I'd written the third book. I was 19 and totally naive about the entire process. But, like you, hopeful and excited. The learning process for me was long (and is still ongoing) but I'm getting to the point where I really feel ready to go for the next step again.

  18. Janna Qualman

    What a great journey to share! Thanks for being so honest and heartfelt with it.

    And I like that, considering it all your first act. It makes so much sense! Best to you with the remainder of the play. πŸ˜‰

  19. Kristen Torres-Toro

    This is awesome, Katie! I love learning about your journey!

    What happened to your second novel happens to me a lot. I'll get a story but something doesn't really work, so I have to wait. Then when the story comes, I can write the first draft in a month. I figure the time equals out, right?

    Have a great day!

  20. Patti Lacy

    My writing journey started when a brave Irishwoman shared her story with this court reporter/teacher/master's student back in 1995. For ten years the saga percolated in my brain as I tossed snippets of architecture and painting and sculpture to my Humanities 101 students.

    Everytime I told Mary's story, folks hawed and gaped and said, "Someone should write that down!"

    In 2005, when I took a semester leave from my job, the Still, Small Voice whispered, "You do it. You."

    Finally I listened. And did my best to capture Roman's 8:28 and An Irishwoman's Tale on paper.

    Love this blog!!!

  21. Jennifer Shirk

    I love hearing about author's writing journeys!

    Mine was more of spur of the moment kind of thing. I never liked to write when I was in school, but then when I became a stay-at-home mom and was reading so much, I finally got the bug to try and write more of what I wanted to read. πŸ™‚

  22. Marybeth Poppins

    Yeah um so my book started when I thought for sure I could be the next Stephanie Meyers … and commence laughing … I've written since I was a child but got really serious about it just over a year ago. I got an idea in my head and just wrote and wrote and wrote.

  23. Jaime

    I am SO EXCITED for you!!! I know I already told you that, but it hasn't worn off yet πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    My inciting incident was literally my imagination running wild and my Dad handing me a notebook and a pen and saying "start writing these down". Simple, but destiny πŸ™‚

  24. Sarah Forgrave

    Like you, my writing journey started after an inciting incident that had me clamoring to get the story down. I can relate to your honeymoon phase when you first started writing because I was SO there too. I'd say I'm in the reality phase where I'm realizing just how hard it is to translate a great story in my head to a great story on paper. Look forward to reading about the next phase of your journey!

  25. Shelby

    Your story is so very inspiring and encouraging to me. This is the good stuff in life!

  26. abouttothunder

    Thank you for sharing your story. It's encouraging. I'm also enjoying reading about everyone else's experiences.

    I hadn't written since high school, and never really wrote fiction then. School hammered all of the creativity out of me for years. Since then, I've had the desire to write but no drive to follow through.

    It changed when JKR's Deathly Hallows came out. Something in that series lit a fire in me. I have a thing for redemptive characters. I started writing a YA fantasy which I put away at 35K. It was good practice, and I'm still quite fond of my characters.

    Then one day while washing the dishes and daydreaming, I had an image come to mind of an author and an actor talking at a table in a coffee shop. That image kept generating question for me. Who were they? How did they meet? What happens to them? The answers started coming and I just jotted them down in a notebook. I kept that up for about 2 months. I really wanted to jump in and start writing, but I couldn't until I knew how it ended. As soon as I had that piece, I wrote the first draft in 108 days.

    Clueless me, I queried 2 agents in the following year, receiving polite rejections. Now, I am working on a total rewrite including a change from third person to first.

    My biggest fear now is coming up with the second complete novel. In the interim, I've started two more that fizzled. I'm working on another for NaNoWriMo that just might be sustainable.

    Whatever happens, writing is something that nourishes me in a way that nothing else does. I think it's something I'm meant to do.

  27. CKHB

    In college I took every single creative writing class that was offered, but then I graduated and "real life" took over… until October 2005 when I heard about NaNoWriMo. I wrote more in November of that year than I ever had before, I think — and, sadly, more than I've written in any months since, but I'm working on it — and this year I finally finished a "final" draft and started submitting to agents. I'm so grateful to NaNoWriMo for getting me jump-started again!

  28. Eileen Astels Watson

    Oh, I hate that. I just wrote a long comment thanking you and telling you my beginning and the stupid internet burped on me.


  29. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought

    Such an adventure. I am leaning in my chair waiting to read the rest. My writing snapped back to life when I moved back to the state I grew up in…there is just something about this place perhaps??? πŸ™‚
    ~ Wendy

  30. Heather Sunseri

    Isn't it amazing where God takes us. I agree with Jody, sometimes we don't see God's hand in how we get where we are until we're already there, looking back.

  31. redqueen1

    I think it's great that you're sharing this with us!

    My writing journey started about a year and a half ago. I was talking to my grandmother about God and why he gives us the skills and passions we have. I mentioned how I'd always wanted to write a book (I'd started many, wrote a ton of short stories, but nothing since high school). She basically said, "Well, why don't you get started."

    I wrote my first book in five weeks. It was the most amazing journey. And the book was crap. lol.

    Since then, I've written a lot. I'll be completing my eighth (!!!) book this month. Most of them were learning experiences and haven't made it past the first draft. But I'm querying my fifth with agents. Fingers crossed and lots of praying that this will be the one!

  32. sherrinda

    Wow! I love your journey and am amazed you can write while teaching! My journey started after I turned forty (yikes) Writing a novel had always been a "dream" and I decided I couldn't let life go by without trying. So on my summer off, I wrote a book. πŸ™‚ A year and a half later, I am editing that book! lol

  33. Katie Ganshert

    Oh, I LOVE reading your comments!! Keep 'em coming! I absolutely love reading about other people's journeys and where everybody has started.

    Jess – teacher's have so much power, don't they? I try to remember that when I'm encouraging my students. I also fell in love with writing because a teacher pointed out my gift.

    Tab – hold onto those words, girl, because I already KNOW your writing is lyrical and filled with beauty and POWER! I can't wait to read your memoir!

    Tamika – thanks for sharing your story! God's amazing, how He puts people in our life to guide us through those dark moments.

    CJ – HA! That sounds like Erica! What fanfic is it?

    Jody – SO SO SO true! About not being able to see clearly when we're "in it". I revisit my prayer journals sometimes and see how clearly God was working. Even if I didn't feel that way. Loved your post on Seekerville today!

  34. Jody Hedlund

    Thanks for sharing more about the beginning of your writing journey, Katie! Loved hearing about it! I've realized that it's not until hindsight that we can really see where God is leading us. While we're in the moment, we're too caught up in what is happening. Only the ultimate Author has the plot and plan laid out extensively–we're just waiting, not knowing what comes next, but trusting he'll bring it all to completion in his perfect way!

  35. CJ

    I'm not a writer, but I did get pushed into writing a story for a fanfic site because I lost a bet to Erica Vetsch. LOL

  36. Tamika:

    What an interesting beginning Katie! I loved hearing all about it.

    Two years ago I felt the Lord's prompting to write. Then life presented some tragedies that consumed my thoughts. Two special women in my life that prayed with me everyday for two years walked me through the darkest valley of my life, and a story was born. I sat on it for two more years- fear of failure and not completelty convinced God was calling me in this direction.

    This is my first year seriously writing, and I am half the way through with my crappy first draft. And I love it!

  37. Tabitha Bird

    Oh Katie wow. Thanks for sharing your journey. I was so hoping you would after getting your agent. I love hearing about how others started. it make me feel like my dreams are possible.

    I only started writing 18mnths ago. I love words. I have always loved words. I am penned lots of things for my eyes only. But I had no idea I could write until someone submitted one of my stories to a magazine. They got back to my friend asking for my details because they wanted to print it. That was the first time I thought about persuing those dreams that had laid dead inside for soooo long.

    No I have completed my first book (a memoir as you know) an dit has just come back from a manuscript evealuator who said many helpful and some hard to hear things. He also said something along the lines of my writing being lyrical and full of literary beauty and I am hanging on to those words so I don't quit. He also said that if ever there was a memoir to break into the Australian mental health market then this was it. I have much to learn. I am currently taking a break from writing and rewriting it to work on the next WIP. I aim to re work the memoir and resubmit to the manuscript evaluator by the middle of next year.

    Until then I am going to write my way to being a better writer πŸ™‚

  38. Jessica

    Ooh, I love how you're telling your story in (ta-da!) story format. πŸ™‚ I can't believe how fast you write either! Wow. *shamefully looking down and thinking about all those times I watched House instead of writing, lol*

    My inciting event was my lit teacher telling me I was a beautiful writer and some other stuff. It was only for an essay I'd written, yet for some reason, I rushed home and started a book. For two years I played with that story and I finally abandoned it at thirty thousand words. LOL I left it because I had a newspaper editor who told me I'd be paid more writing a book than articles and that was what I should do. I'd never thought of being paid to write, so when he said that, LOL, it was a lightbulb moment.


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